The man behind the name “Kirby” has died

Ex-Nintendo lawyer John Kirby, whose name has since been commemorated in pop culture as the company’s iconic pink bubble boi, passed away on 2 October aged 79.

Kirby rose to video game prominence when he represented Nintendo in a case against Universal Studios back in 1984, and managed to persuade the court to rule in favour of Nintendo over a Donkey Kong trademark dispute. Universal Studios sued Nintendo, claiming that the game was based on its King Kong movie franchise – but Kirby argued that King Kong was part of the public domain and therefore legally within Nintendo’s right to use for its own creative purposes.

His work included much more than that one Nintendo case though. He had a long and illustrious career, as outlined in his obituary, such as working with Pepsi and America Online. And in the 60s, during the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, Kirby gathered evidence of institutional racism against African-American voters, an investigation that helped lay the foundations of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The man lived a rather amazing life, and just one slice of his legacy is that his name is now the name of an iconic Nintendo character. He’ll surely be remembered for much more.

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