Skip to main content

Ronald Johnston has been a leader in the IP and litigation bars for more than 25 years, including representing clients in leading cases in the information technology and entertainment industries. Ronald has been featured in LA Magazine as a "trailblazer of the law," and recognized by the U.S. and International editions of Chambers for Litigation and IP, the LA Business Journal as "the best of the bar," and Best Lawyers as Los Angeles "Information Technology Law Lawyer of the Year" for 2012. In 2013, in separate surveys, the California Daily Journal named him among the "Top 100 Lawyers in California," a survey recognizing those attorneys involved in the "most cutting-edge work in litigation, regulation and corporate transactions," and among the "Top 75 Intellectual Property Attorneys," which recognizes "attorneys whose work has advanced the law and technological innovation." He has been named to both lists in previous years. In naming him as one of the top lawyers in California, the Daily Journal observed: "More than 30 years after he embedded himself at the intersection of the law and technology, Mr. Johnston has remained remarkably relevant in an industry that has a penchant for reinventing itself at an astonishing pace." The Daily Journal added that he has been "instrumental in shaping some of the biggest policy decisions regarding the ever-expanding digital frontier."

Ronald has represented clients in leading cases in the information technology and entertainment industries both at the trial and appellate levels. He also provides strategic counseling to computer, software, entertainment, and internet businesses on a broad range of intellectual property, contractual, and competitive issues. The substantive areas of his practice include copyright, patent, trade secret, trademark, right of publicity, antitrust, unfair competition, contract, and corporate law.

He was the founder and chairperson of the University of Southern California's Computer & Internet Law Institute (1979-2003). He also co-founded The Computer & Internet Lawyer (Aspen Publications, 1984-present), the leading journal on computer and online commerce law, and serves as its Editor-in-Chief. Ronald has been a frequent chairperson and speaker at national institutes in the areas of trial practice, intellectual property, and technology law. He also has been a frequent author on these subjects and serves on several editorial boards.

Ronald graduated Order of the Coif from the University of Southern California School of Law in 1973, where he served as a Note and Article Editor for the University of Southern California Law Review.


  • Counsel for major owner of music and video copyrights in leading litigation in district courts concerning the legality under the copyright laws of practices on user generated content and social networking sites, including the unauthorized reproduction of music and videos.
  • Lead appellate counsel for NBC Universal, Recording Industry Association of America, Nat'l Music Publishers Association, American Federation of Musicians, American Association of Independent Music in filing amicus brief before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in UMG Recordings v. Veoh Networks concerning the application of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to social networking websites.
  • Represented a leading new media company in precedential litigation in several jurisdictions throughout the United States concerning whether user-interactive television programming through text messaging violates lottery and other trade practice laws.
  • Lead counsel in related antitrust actions, U.S. governmental agency proceedings, congressional committee hearings, international arbitrations, and contract negotiations in connection with the operation of Internet registries for the domain name system.
  • Lead counsel in the trial and appellate courts in Coalition for ICANN Transparency, Inc. v. VeriSign, Inc., 611 F.3d 495 (9th Circuit, 2010), addressing monopolization and conspiracy claims under the Sherman and Clayton Acts; following repeated dismissals of claims, plaintiff dismissed case with prejudice without consideration.
  • Successfully argued Lockheed Martin Corp. v. Network Solutions Inc., 194 F. 3rd 980 (9th Cir., 1999), the first appellate opinion, and now landmark decision, determining critically important legal standards for secondary liability law on the Internet.
  • Successfully argued Abdul-Jabbar v. General Motors Corp., 75 F.3d 1391 (9th Cir. 1996), a leading case on right of publicity, fair use, and trademark law.
  • Representing Jamster International SARL in defense of coordinated consumer class actions regarding advertising and contracting practices in the cellular content industry.
  • Lead trial counsel for Microsoft Corp. in jury trial resulting in one of the largest jury verdicts (compensatory and punitive damages) in a trade secret case in the information technology industry.
  • Secured preliminary injunction on behalf of a publisher against an Internet portal, Perfect 10 Inc. v. Cybernet Ventures, 213F.Supp.2d.1146 (C.D. Cal. 2002), based on rulings of first impression that the portal had contributory and vicarious liability for conduct on a network of more than 300,000 websites, and was required to monitor them, and that it was unfair competition to infringe third party celebrity rights of publicity by displaying unauthorized images.
  • Secured summary judgment in Guba v. Perfect 10 (N.D. Cal, 2003), entering judgment of copyright infringement against an ISP and USENET indexer, based on compiling copyrighted materials.
  • Successfully argued Balzar-Wolf Assoc. Inc. v. Parley Corp., 753 F.2d 771 (9th Cir. 1985), a leading case on dealer termination law and the covenant of good faith and fair dealing.
  • A lead counsel in the landmark coordinated antitrust actions, In re Data General Antitrust Litigation, 529 F.Supp. 801 (9th Cir. 1981) (tying and attempted monopolization).


Best Lawyers
Information Technology Law (LA) (2001-2024)
Litigation: Patent (LA) (2001-2024)
"Lawyer of the Year"— Information Technology Law (LA) (2021, 2023)
"Los Angeles Lawyer of the Year" — Information Technology Law (LA) (2012, 2017, 2019)
Copyright Law (LA) (2011-2014)
Managing Intellectual Property
"Trademark Star" (California) (2023)
"Copyright Star" (California) (2023)
"IP Star" (California) (2013-2022)
Southern California Super Lawyers
"Super Lawyer" (2004-2021)



  • J.D., University of Southern California Law School, Order of the Coif
  • B.A., California State University at Fullerton


  • California


  • Member, Board of Directors, Computer Law Association (1986-2002)

  • Editorial Board, The Journal of Proprietary Rights

  • Editorial Board, The Cyberspace Lawyer

  • Executive and Planning Committees, Intellectual Property Institute, University of Southern California (2003-present)

  • Member, Technology and Intellectual Property Panels, American Arbitration Association

  • Arbitrator for the International Chamber of Commerce

  • Founder and Continuing Chair, University of Southern California Computer & Internet Law Institute (1979-2003)

  • Co-founder and editor-in-chief, The Computer & Internet Lawyer (Aspen Publications, 1984-present)