Social networking company Facebook will attempt to convince the court to discard claims that its founder Mark Zuckerberg stole ideas from his college classmates to start his online site.

Zuckerberg, the 23 year old chief executive of Facebook, is accused of stealing source code and graphic designs from his Harvard university classmates which started Representatives will appear in a U.S. federal court hearing next week.

The latest hearing is another twist in a three-year legal battle between Facebook and ConnectU, which is seeking an injunction that would shut down Facebook. Complaints were first filed in August 2004, when Facebook had only 200,000 registered users.

It has since grown to become the second largest social networking website in the United States, with nearly 28 million unique visitors as of June, according to web measurement service comScore. It’s larger competitor, MySpace, has just over 70 million unique visitors.

The legal spat comes at a time when its Facebook's backers believe the web-property may be worth up to $8 billion. Last year, Facebook reportedly turned down an offer as high as $1 billion from Yahoo! There is speculation that the privately held firm could choose to be listed on a stock exchange and make an initial public offering.