The Supreme Court is questioning whether patents on inventions that arise from federally funded research must go to the university where the inventor worked.
The court heard arguments Monday from lawyers from Stanford University, which wants the patents to 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 pharmaceutical giant Roche says Stanford researcher Mark Holodniy also signed a contract that gave the company the patent to anything that resulted from their collaboration. A federal appeals court made Roche and Stanford co-owners.
The justices will make a decision by June.
The case is Stanford University v. Roche, 09-1159.