Trent M. Johnson



Trent M. Johnson is a litigator, business counselor, trial lawyer and co-chair of the firm's Distribution & Franchise Practice. Trent focuses primarily on distribution and franchise litigation and counseling, which includes counseling on related antitrust issues.  Trent also has substantial experience in general commercial and complex litigation.

Trent has concentrated on product distribution law since the beginning of his career at Foley, and now devotes the vast majority of his practice to counseling manufacturers on many of the key facets of their resale relationships. Trent routinely advises his clients – from Fortune 100 companies to smaller private organizations – on issues involving channel structure (including multi-channel networks), drafting key contractual provisions, state and federal antitrust law compliance, contract administration and enforcement, e-commerce issues, distributor and dealer performance, negotiating relationship modifications (both individual and system-wide), transfers of control, product or territory withdrawals, product pricing, discount and rebate programs, product repurchase disputes, and other issues.

To the extent clients need to disengage entirely from a distributor, Trent has substantial experience litigating and trying distributor terminations (including “bet-the-network” terminations) in state and federal court, and in arbitration.

Key to Trent’s practice is staying ahead of statutory changes and their impact on manufacturers. Trent was the creator of the interactive version of Foley’s “Smiley Face Map,” a tool designed to assist in-house counsel in assessing their risk of liability under the panoply of state distributor and dealer protection statutes.

Thought Leadership

Trent speaks and writes frequently in the area of distribution and franchise, and complex commercial litigation. He is a co-editor for Foley’s Product Distribution Law Guide and the Wisconsin chapter of Business Torts – A Fifty State Guide, a litigation reference guide for corporate in-house counsel (Aspen Publishers, Inc.). A few of his recent publications and presentations include:

  • The WFDL Is Broader Than You Think – Lessons from Golf Pros (Article, The National Law Review, July 2017)
  • Update on New Hampshire’s “Dealer Bill of Rights”: What Equipment Manufacturers Need To Know (Article, The National Law Review, January 2016)
  • Marketing Challenges for Equipment Manufacturers (Presentation, Farm Equipment Manufacturers Association Annual Convention, 2015)
  • The Buy-Back Problem (Presentation, Distribution and Franchise Seminar, 2015)
  • Termination – You Make The Call (Presentation, Distribution and Franchise Seminar, 2014)
  • Five Things Never To Say (Or Email) To Distributors (Ag Innovator, 2014)
  • Lawn Mowers and Wheel Barrows are Now Motor Vehicles In New Hampshire (Lexology, 2013)
  • The Changing Landscape of Dealer and Franchise Regulation (Presentation, Farm Equipment Manufacturers Association Annual Convention, 2013)
  • Termination: Laying the Groundwork, Making the Case (Presentation, Distribution and Franchise Seminar, 2013)
  • The Elements of E-Discovery (Presentation, National Bar Association Annual Convention, 2012)
  • Declaratory Judgments As A Strategic Weapon: Sometimes the Best Defense Is A Good Offense (Presentation, Distribution and Franchise Seminar, 2012)
  • Regulation of the Dealer Relationship – What has Changed In 20 Years (Presentation, Distribution and Franchise Seminar, 2011)
  • Legal Considerations In Marketing Through Distributors (Presentation, SolarThermal Conference, 2011)
  • Baby Would I Lie, False Advertising, Social Media and Legal Remedies (Presentation, Business Litigation Seminar, 2011)
  • 1st Circuit Stands Firm on Notice Pleading Standard for FRCA Claims (Lexology, 2011)
  • Case Study: Bateman v. AMC (Law360, 2010)


Trent received his law degree (J.D., cum laude, 2004) from the University of Wisconsin Law School. During law school, he served as an extern to District Judge Barbara Crabb, chief judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. He graduated from Miami University in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, Spanish and psychology.

Community Engagement

Trent is a member of several professional and charitable organizations, and is member of the board of directors of both the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and the Manufacturing Diversity Institute.  Trent is a former board member of The Milwaukee Urban League and of Bublr Bikes.