Legal battle over fossil rights kicked back to Montana Supreme Court

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is doing some digging to figure out who exactly owns fossils found buried in Montana.

The long-standing dispute is between landowners and mineral estates in Garfield County, who are making competing claims for the rights to the valuable finds. On Monday, the federal appellate court bounced the case back to the Montana Supreme Court for a determination.

The case began in mid-2006 when preserved fossils of dueling dinosaurs were discovered on the ranch of Mary Ann and Lige Murray, a complete T-Rex skeleton and a large Triceratops skull and foot.

After the discovery, the Murrays sold the T-Rex skeleton to a Dutch museum for millions of dollars.

The Murrays owned the surface land on their ranch, but most of the mineral rights belonged to out-of-state companies.