The Supreme Court will decide whether patents on inventions that arise from federally-funded research must go to the university where the inventor worked.
The high court on Monday agreed to hear an appeal from Stanford University.
Stanford sued pharmacutical giant Roche over the alleged infringement of technology for detecting HIV levels in a patient's blood.
The university said it owns the technology because its discoverer worked at Stanford. The 1980 Bayh-Dole Act allows universities to retain the rights to research funded by federal grants.
But Roche says Stanford researcher Mark Holodniy also signed a contract with it that give the company the patent to anything that resulted from their collaboration.
The case is Stanford University v. Roche, 09-1159.