John Joseph Kirby Jr. passed away this week from blood cancer on October 2, at age 79, surrounded by both family and friends. An attorney, Kirby is best-known for successfully defending Nintendo in a legal battle against Universal in the 1980s that saved the Donkey Kong franchise, which was being targeted by an IP infringement that claimed the Nintendo series was illegally based on King Kong. It's rumored that Nintendo named its character Kirby after the lawyer for saving its massive franchise, however, this has never been confirmed.
In addition to saving Donkey Kong from Universal, Kirby worked for Pepsi and America Online, and notably worked at the Department of Justice as the special assistant to the head of the Civil Rights Division. Kirby's life and accomplishments go well beyond his work for Nintendo, but it's his work for the Japanese games company that most -- at least on the Internet -- know him for.
"I...just heard the bad news...
Rest In Peace, John Kirby...
Thank you for saving us in the 80s..."#RIPJohnKirby— 🔥Bowsette🔥 (@PrincessXBowser) October 5, 2019
Very sad. John Kirby, the American lawyer who successfully defended Nintendo in a lawsuit that found "Donkey Kong" did NOT infringe on the "King Kong" trademark, has passed at 79.October 5, 2019
Kirby's name sake John Kirby has passed away at 79,
what a legend
He helped Nintendo of America be here today because of his defense of Donkey Kong, without it Nintendo most likely would of taken a massive blow and Universal would be in gaming instead#NintendoSwitch pic.twitter.com/b0bDPaqmeL— Acing Entertainment (@U_S_Ace) October 4, 2019
While it has never been confirmed that Kirby the character is named after Kirby the lawyer, it's known that Nintendo eventually gifted John a sailboat, named Donkey Kong. It is said that Kirby enjoyed sailing with his family throughout his life, from the shore of Westhampton Beach to the waters off Shippan Point, Connecticut.
Our condolences go out to Kirby's family and friends during this difficult time.