John Kirby, an attorney that successfully defended Nintendo from a Universal lawsuit over Donkey Kong, has passed away

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Sadly, John J Kirby, Jr. is no longer with us. He passed away on October 2nd at the age of 79, due to complications of Myelodysplastic syndrome, a blood cancer. Kirby was an attorney that defended many big companies, including Pepsi, America Online and Nintendo. In fact, one of his well-known cases involved Nintendo, and it can be argued that Kirby saved Nintendo at a time when they were still new to the video gaming scene.

In 1982, Nintendo was new to the United States market. Donkey Kong had recently debuted and became a big hit, but not everyone was pleased to see this. Universal City Studios, claiming that Donkey Kong was illegally based on King Kong, sued Nintendo. John Kirby would be the attorney who defended Nintendo in court. During this time, he and Shigeru Miyamoto met and got to know each other, something that would have an impact later. It was eventually determined in 1984 that Universal had no legal right to claim copyright, because Universal had already proved in a prior lawsuit with RKO General, Inc. that the King Kong plot and characters were in the public domain. Not only did Nintendo win the case, but Universal was ordered to pay Nintendo’s legal fees and damages. This verdict would be upheld, even after Universal appealed it twice.

With John Kirby’s defense of Nintendo a success, Nintendo was very thankful for his hard work. The company sent him a sailboat named “Donkey Kong” that Kirbytook great pleasure in sailing with his family on the waters by his homes in Westhampton Beach, and later Shippan Point, Connecticut”. Miyamoto would not forget what John Kirby did for Nintendo either. When Miyamoto and his team were deciding on names for a pink puffball character, “Kirby” was “partially chosen in connection with [John Kirby]”, as Miyamoto later explained to Game Informer.

Source / Miyamoto’s Explanation of Kirby’s Name

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