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


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

19 thoughts on “John Kirby, an attorney that successfully defended Nintendo from a Universal lawsuit over Donkey Kong, has passed away”

  1. Mr.Krabs with a mustache

    It’s so interesting that this small butterfly effect saved Nintendo. If John Kirby never defended Nintendo, this site, all the Mario characters, smash bros, etc. wouldn’t be a thing. Thanks Kirby.

    1. BULLSHIT. They would’ve had to pay licensing fees if they lost the case, and that’s it. Neither Nintendo nor the Mario characters were endangered by this.The Donkey Kong games wouldn’t exist, nothing more.

  2. Pingback: John Kirby, an attorney that successfully defended Nintendo from a Universal lawsuit over Donkey Kong, has passed away | The Best Technology Information

  3. This sounds very interesting. I didn’t know this guy defended Nintendo lawsuits for all these years. I never even heard of this guy until now. Nintendo makes him very special for defending past lawsuits. R.I.P.

  4. π‘΅π’Šπ’π’•π’†π’π’…π’ π‘­π’Šπ’“π’”π’• 𝑢𝒓𝒅𝒆𝒓 𝑹𝒆𝒂𝒗𝒆𝒓

    😒Rest in peace mister

  5. To think that Nintendo/Universal were once enemies… And now… because of John, Nintendo and Universal are working together to build an epic theme park and produce a Mario movie with Universal’s animation department! Thanks John!

    Hey! …. Since the park is still under construction, maybe there can be a cool little memorial spot with trivia and info about what John did along with some honoring messages. The memorial can be somewhere near the DK/Kirby entrance area of the park, I doubt it will take a huge amount of room, so I hope Nintendo can squeeze John in there. :)
    The Mario movie can also do the same but have some sort of Easter eggs about John, or maybe a message in the credits. :)

  6. The man who saved Donkey Kong from being exclusive to Japan & who’s last name would become the name of an iconic Nintendo character. (There’s no way Nintendo would have continued to use Donkey Kong outside of Japan if it meant most of the money went into Universal’s pockets. I don’t think Donkey Kong would have even be a thing today if Universal had won and would have just been a small footnote in video game history.)

    RIP, John Kirby.

  7. Thank you Mr. Kirby for defending the company that made me a gamer- were it not for you, I may not have gotten to play Mario 64 and kicked off my love for the gaming medium. May Nintendo find another way to immortalize you.

  8. This bought me into a love and hate relationship, I love nintendo products and enjoyed them and I think this person for defending it so that nintendo continue to survive in this test of time. The bad part is that this may also bought them to protect their IP and cause the crusade against ROMs, the lawsuit army that happens to innocent souls who love the retro games because nintendo continue to fail to make a better multi-platform service that for a decent monthly fee, provides all the retro games that nintendo has to offer on any systems provided.

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