A maker of luxury timepieces has taken its legal tussle with Costco (Nasdaq: COST) all the way to the Supreme Court. Bargain hunters should watch this battle closely, because the ramifications could doom many delightful discount deals.

Swatch Group's Omega luxury watch brand will square off against Costco in the nation's highest court. According to The Wall Street Journal, Omega claims that Costco violated copyright law in 2004, when it peddled Omega Seamaster watches bearing an emblem that Omega had registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Costco had obtained the watches from foreign third-party sources and sold them for $1,299, compared to Omega's preferred $1,999 retail price.

But how much of this issue is really about protecting Omega's copyright, and how much is really about its ability to maintain its high margins and to keep such merchandise out of deep discounters' hands?

Costco is well-known and well-loved for offering high-end merchandise for lower-end prices. However, its cost-cutting behavior doesn't always go over well with luxury-goods providers, who need to protect their high-end brands by charging high-end prices.

Intellectual property and copyright skirmishes are hardly unheard of in the retail biz. Urban Outfitters (Nasdaq: URBN) gunned for mall-based retailer Forever 21 in 2007, claiming the latter had copied some of its designs. eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) faced Tiffany's (NYSE: TIF) wrath over outright knockoffs available on its site in 2004. The online auctioneer has lost numerous court battles against French luxury purveyor LVMH in the last few years, too.

Such entanglements aren't new for Costco, either. In 2008, Crocs (Nasdaq: CROX) snapped at Costco for offering its shoes, which apparently came from a source other than Crocs itself. Calvin Klein frequently engaged in Costco-related ruckuses, suing Costco (then known as Price Costco) in 1996 for selling knockoffs, and then four years later suing Warnaco, which made CK goods, for selling the merchandise to Costco and other discounters.

The current Costco case has major retail ramifications, even beyond obvious names such as eBay and Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN). Amazon, Target (NYSE: TGT), and a retail trade association have come out in support of Costco, pointing out that buying some merchandise from third parties is a common practice in retail.

Diehard bargain shoppers should keep an eye on this battle, too. If retailers are blocked from buying from third parties, exciting bargains could become far less common in the aisles of their favorite stores.

I can totally understand why consumer-goods companies would want to protect their brands -- and by extension, the premium prices they command. However, companies such as Costco, eBay, and many others appeal to what is, for many of us, one of the greatest recreational activities around: the competitive hunt for the lowest price for quality merchandise.

Should Costco prevail, or does Omega have a point? Sound off in the comments boxes below.