Sanofi Loses Appeal in Roche Suit Over Rituxan, Avastin

Sanofi lost an appeals court ruling on its patent-infringement claims against Roche Holding AG’s Genentech and Biogen Idec Inc. for the cancer drugs Rituxan and Avastin.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit today upheld a lower court ruling that the drugs don’t infringe two Sanofi patents. The opinion was posted on the court’s website.

Sanofi sued Genentech and Biogen Idec in 2008 after Genentech said it was canceling a licensing agreement that had dated back to 1991. Paris-based Sanofi said the cancer drugs were made using inventions it owned to enhance the expression of a gene and make production more efficient.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco ruled that Genentech and Weston, Massachusetts-based Biogen Idec didn’t use the same steps as those covered by the Sanofi patents. Sanofi said Illston had misconstrued certain terms of the patents. The Federal Circuit rejected the arguments.

Sanofi, which said it was disappointed in the decision, can ask the court to reconsider the opinion.

“The company is currently evaluating its options and next steps,” said Carrie brown, a Sanofi spokeswoman

Rituxan is Basel, Switzerland-based Roche’s top-selling drug, with sales of 6 billion Swiss francs ($6.6 billion) last year. Roche is the world’s biggest seller of cancer drugs. The drug is approved for use in rheumatoid arthritis, chronic lymphocytic leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Avastin is approved for colon, lung, kidney and brain cancer in the U.S., as well as for breast cancer in Europe. Sales of the drug fell 18 percent last year to 5.29 billion Swiss francs from 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The case is Sanofi-Aventis Deutschland GmBh v. Genentech Inc., 2011-1397, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington). The lower court cases are Sanofi-Aventis Deutschland GmBh v. Genentech Inc., 09cv4919, and Genentech Inc. v. Sanofi-Aventis Deutschland GmBh, 08cv4909, both U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (San Francisco).

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