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John Kirby, Namesake of Nintendo's 'Kirby' Character, Passes Away at 79

posted on by Rafael Antonio Pineda
Lawyer successfully represented Nintendo in Universal's 1984 Donkey Kong/King Kong trademark case

Attorney John Kirby passed away due to myelodysplastic syndrome on October 2. He was 79.

Within video games and Japanese media, Kirby is perhaps best known as the namesake for Nintendo's "Kirby" character. In 1984, he successfully represented Nintendo in a lawsuit filed by Universal City Studios. The courts ruled that Nintendo's "Donkey Kong" character did not infringe on Universal City Studios's non-exclusive trademark rights to King Kong. (Kirby had argued that Universal had itself argued against film studio RKO that the character of "King Kong" was public domain.)

In addition to naming a character in Kirby's honor, Nintendo gave him a sailboat, christened Donkey Kong, in gratitude for his efforts on its behalf.

Kirby also served as special assistant to John Doar, the head of the United States government's Civil Rights Division during the 1960s. His work helped uncover literacy tests designed to exclude African-Americans, which led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Source: The New York Times via Siliconera


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