A real-life Nintendo hero, John Kirby has passed away at the age of 79. Kirby defended Nintendo against litigation from Universal Studios after the release of Donkey Kong in 1984. As thanks, John Kirby was later used as the namesake for Nintendo and HAL Laboratory’s character Kirby. He died from complications of Myelodysplastic syndrome.
John Kirby was a civil rights lawyer, helping to create the foundation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Although his most famous case was Universal City Studios, Inc v. Nintendo Co., Ltd, his career of over forty years spanned many litigation cases from Pepsi to General Foods.
It’s strange to think that Nintendo might not be around today without John Kirby. In the ’80s, Nintendo was still very new to the video game scene, rather than the industry giant we know today. If it weren’t for King Kong being considered public domain, the case might have resulted in hefty fines for Nintendo and potentially even closure. Nintendo would go on to gift Kirby a sailboat christened the “Donkey Kong” as thanks.
Last year, Mario’s own namesake, Mario Segale, passed away at age 84. While these men may no longer be with us, they remain in memory through their accomplishments and inspirations. Kirby will remain a part of Nintendo’s history long after his passing.