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Obituary: Former Nintendo lawyer John Kirby

Obituary: Former Nintendo lawyer John Kirby

October 4, 2019 | By Alissa McAloon

October 4, 2019 | By Alissa McAloon
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John Kirby, the lawyer that once represented Nintendo in a legal dispute over the name of Nintendo’s Donkey Kong series and the partial namesake for the titular star of Kirby’s Dream Land, has passed away at the age of 79.

Kirby notably faced off against Universal Studios’ 1984 allegations that Donkey Kong infringed its trademark on King Kong, a case that eventually concluded King Kong had entered the public domain and was free to inspire Nintendo’s Donkey Kong character and games.

In 2011, famed Nintendo designer Shigeru Miyamoto shared that the name of Nintendo’s now-iconic Kirby character was partially chosen due to his prior interactions with John Kirby.

As outlined in his obituary in the New York Times, Kirby’s decades-long legal career saw him working alongside companies like Pepsi and America Online in addition to his work with Nintendo. Kirby notably spent time as the special assistant to the head of the Civil Rights Division at the US Department of Justice during the civil rights moment in the 1960s, helping to uncover discriminatory practices against African-American voters in southern states.



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