Major controversies in moral and political theory concern the rights, if any, Indigenous peoples should have over their traditional knowledge. Many scholars, including me, have tackled these controversies. This Article addresses a highly important practical issue: Can we come up with a solid framework for resolving disputes over actual or proposed intellectual property rights in traditional knowledge?

Yes, we can. The framework suggested here starts with a preliminary distinction between control rights and income rights. It then moves to four categories that help to understand disputes: nature of the traditional knowledge under dispute; dynamics between named parties to disputes; unnamed Indigenous claimants; and the various normative systems (for example, custom, U.N. documents, treaties, statutes, administrative regulations) within which disputes are decided. Throughout, examples that inform the framework come principally from Indigenous peoples in the Pacific rim. Lastly the Article tests the framework against some disputes over traditional knowledge in Samoa and New Zealand.

This framework is comprehensive and sensitive to context. It is flexible regarding which normative systems are best suited to settling disputes. A test run shows that the framework helps to resolve practical legal issues.