John Kirby, the lawyer who successfully defended Nintendo in the early 1980s, has died aged 79.
Kirby enjoyed a long and illustrious career in law, but one highlight came when he successfully defended Nintendo during a trademark and copyright infringement suit brought by Universal City Studios involving then-new arcade game Donkey Kong.
Universal claimed Nintendo’s game was illegally based on King Kong. However, Kirby won the case by presenting evidence that Universal had previously admitted that the story and characters of King Kong were in the public domain; thus, Universal had no legal right to claim ownership of them.
In was a landmark victory for Nintendo during a crucial period of its transition into video games.
Kirby continued to represent Nintendo for many years and Nintendo’s own Kirby is claimed to have been named after the lawyer in tribute.
Nintendo also gave Kirby a sailboat named “Donkey Kong,” which he is said to have sailed with his family on the waters by his homes in Westhampton Beach and Shippan Point, Connecticut.
Kirby’s other clients included the likes of Pepsi and America Online, and he also worked at the Department of Justice as the special assistant to the head of the Civil Rights Division.