John Kirby (attorney)

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John Kirby
John Joseph Kirby Jr.

(1939-10-22)October 22, 1939
DiedOctober 2, 2019(2019-10-02) (aged 79)
Susan Cullman(m. 2004)
Relatives Edgar M. Cullman (father-in-law)

John Joseph Kirby Jr. (October 22, 1939 – October 2, 2019) was an American attorney. He was most notable for his successful defense for Nintendo against Universal City Studios over the copyrightability of the character of Donkey Kong in 1984, from which Nintendo subsequently named the character Kirby to honor him.

Lawyer legal professional who helps clients and represents them in a court of law

A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate, attorney, attorney at law, barrister, barrister-at-law, bar-at-law, canonist, canon lawyer, civil law notary, counsel, counselor, counsellor, solicitor, legal executive, or public servant preparing, interpreting and applying law, but not as a paralegal or charter executive secretary. Working as a lawyer involves the practical application of abstract legal theories and knowledge to solve specific individualized problems, or to advance the interests of those who hire lawyers to perform legal services.

Nintendo Japanese multinational consumer electronics company

Nintendo Co., Ltd. is a Japanese multinational consumer electronics and video game company headquartered in Kyoto. Nintendo is one of the world's largest video game companies by market capitalization, creating some of the best-known and top-selling video game franchises of all-time, such as Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Pokémon.

Donkey Kong (character) fictional ape

Donkey Kong or DK is a fictional character who appears in games belonging to the Donkey Kong and Mario video game franchises. He is a gorilla and Mario's friendly rival. A popular character, DK has appeared in many video games, along with his nephew Diddy Kong. Donkey Kong appeared as Mario's first opponent in the game bearing the ape's name, Nintendo's popular 1981 arcade game, Donkey Kong. Since then he has starred in his own series of games, starting with sequel's of the arcade game and, later, 1994's Donkey Kong Country for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). He remains an important character in the Mario series, such as the Mario Kart games. DK debuted at the same time as Mario, and he still appears with the plumber on occasion, appearing as a playable character in the Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. series, and is the primary antagonist in the Mario vs. Donkey Kong games that started in 2004.


Early life

Kirby was born in Falls Church, Virginia, on October 22, 1939, to John Joseph Kirby, a lawyer with the federal government for over 40 years, and Rose L. Mangan Kirby, a home maker. [1] He had two brothers, Peter Kirby and Michael Kirby, and two sisters Lisa Greissing and Cecelia Wrasse. [1]

Falls Church, Virginia Independent city in Virginia

Falls Church is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 12,332. The estimated population in 2018 was 14,772. Falls Church is included in the Washington metropolitan area. Falls Church has the lowest level of poverty of any independent city or county in the United States.


During his younger days, Kirby worked at the Department of Justice as the special assistant to the head of the Civil Rights Division, John Doar, during the height of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. At the Department of Justice, where he first worked as a summer intern, he gathered voting records throughout the South that demonstrated evidence of widespread discrimination against African-Americans. His discovery of methods such as literacy tests specifically designed to exclude African-Americans from voting helped form the basis of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. While at the Civil Rights Division, he also found himself personally escorting African-American children into segregated schools, surrounded by federal marshals. Later, he was appointed Deputy Director to the President's Commission on Campus Unrest, founded in the aftermath of the killings of four students at Kent State University. Over a legal career spanning four decades, Kirby argued in front of the Supreme Court and served as the chairman of the historic Wall Street law firm Mudge Rose Guthrie Alexander & Ferdon, before joining the international law firm Latham & Watkins LLP in 1995 to chair their New York Litigation Department. [1]

The U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division is the institution within the federal government responsible for enforcing federal statutes prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, sex, disability, religion, and national origin. The Division was established on December 9, 1957, by order of Attorney General William P. Rogers, after the Civil Rights Act of 1957 created the office of Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, who has since then headed the division. The head of the Civil Rights Division is an Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights (AAG-CR) appointed by the President of the United States. The current AAG-CR is Eric Dreiband.

John Doar American lawyer

John Andrew Doar was an American lawyer and senior counsel with the law firm Doar Rieck Kaley & Mack in New York City. He had a notable role as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights from 1961 to 1965 and as head of the division from 1965 until 1967, during the civil rights years of the administrations of presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. He led the government's response in events such as the admission and protection of James Meredith as the first black student to the University of Mississippi, as well as the evolving response to the civil rights movement promoting integration and voter registration in the South.

Voting Rights Act of 1965 Piece of federal legislation in the United States that prohibits racial discrimination in voting

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a landmark piece of federal legislation in the United States that prohibits racial discrimination in voting. It was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson during the height of the civil rights movement on August 6, 1965, and Congress later amended the Act five times to expand its protections. Designed to enforce the voting rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, the Act secured the right to vote for racial minorities throughout the country, especially in the South. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the Act is considered to be the most effective piece of federal civil rights legislation ever enacted in the country.

Kirby was employed by the law firm Latham & Watkins LLP until June 30, 2007, where he served as head of the New York office's Intellectual Property and Technology Practice Group and chairman of the New York Litigation Department from 1995 to 2004. Kirby represented a number of notable corporations in legal disputes, among which the likes of PepsiCo., General Foods, and Warner-Lambert. [2] One of his most well-known cases was Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Nintendo Co., Ltd. (1984). In this case, he defended Nintendo against litigation from Universal City Studios in a dispute revolving around the video game Donkey Kong , which Universal claimed to be illegally based on King Kong . Kirby won the case, a landmark victory for Nintendo, by presenting evidence that Universal had previously won a legal battle against RKO that stated the story and characters of King Kong were in the public domain; thus, Universal had no legal right to claim ownership of the characters and basic scenario (man rescuing a woman from a large ape) when the studio originally threatened legal action against Nintendo. [3] For this defense, Kirby was considered to have "saved Nintendo" during its early growth into video games into the American market. [4]

General Foods defunct company

General Foods Corporation was a company whose direct predecessor was established in the USA by Charles William Post as the Postum Cereal Company in 1895. The name General Foods was adopted in 1929, after several corporate acquisitions. In November 1985, General Foods was acquired by Philip Morris Companies for $5.6 billion, the largest non-oil acquisition to that time. In December 1988, Philip Morris acquired Kraft, Inc., and, in 1990, combined the two food companies as Kraft General Foods (KGF). "General Foods" was dropped from the corporate name in 1995; a line of caffeinated hot beverage mixes continued to carry the General Foods International name until 2010.

Pfizer American multinational pharmaceutical corporation

Pfizer Inc. is an American multinational pharmaceutical corporation headquartered in New York City was founded in 1849, based in New York City and was listed on New York Stock Exchange. It is one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies. It is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and its shares have been a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average since 2004. Pfizer ranked No. 57 on the 2018 Fortune 500 list of the largest United States corporations by total revenue.

<i>Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Nintendo Co., Ltd.</i> legal case

Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Nintendo Co., Ltd. was a case heard by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York by Judge Robert W. Sweet. In their complaint, Universal Studios alleged that Nintendo's video game Donkey Kong was a trademark infringement of King Kong, the plot and characters of which Universal claimed as their own. Nintendo argued that Universal had themselves proven that King Kong's plot and characters were in the public domain in Universal City Studios, Inc. v. RKO General, Inc.

In thanks for aiding them, Nintendo gave Kirby a $30,000 sailboat christened the Donkey Kong along with "exclusive worldwide rights to use the name for sailboats." [5] Shigeru Miyamoto also stated that the name of the character Kirby was chosen in honor of Kirby. [6] [7] It is rumored that a copy of the game Kirby's Dream Land was eventually sent to Kirby, who was humored and flattered. [8]

Shigeru Miyamoto Japanese video game designer

Shigeru Miyamoto is a Japanese video game designer and producer at Nintendo, where he serves as one of its representative directors. He is the creator of some of the most acclaimed and best-selling game franchises, such as Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Star Fox, F-Zero, and Donkey Kong.

Kirby (character) fictional character

Kirby is a fictional character and the titular protagonist of the Kirby series of video games owned by Nintendo and HAL Laboratory. As one of Nintendo's most famous and familiar icons, Kirby's round appearance and ability to copy his foes' powers has made him a well-known figure in video games, consistently ranked as one of the most iconic video game characters. He first appeared in 1992 in Kirby's Dream Land for the Game Boy. Originally a placeholder, created by Masahiro Sakurai, at the age of 19, for the game's early development, he has since then starred in over 20 games, ranging from action platformers to puzzle, racing, and even pinball, and has been featured as a playable fighter in all Super Smash Bros. games. He has also starred in his own anime and manga series. His most recent appearance is in Kirby Star Allies, for the Nintendo Switch. Since 1999, he has been voiced by Makiko Ohmoto.

<i>Kirbys Dream Land</i> 1992 action platform video game

Kirby's Dream Land is an action platform video game developed by HAL Laboratory and published by Nintendo for the Game Boy. Released in 1992, it is the first video game in the Kirby series and the debut of Kirby. As the inaugural Kirby title it created many conventions that would appear in later games in the series. However, Kirby's iconic copy ability would not appear until Kirby's Adventure, released less than one year later.

Personal life

Kirby was married to Susan Cullman, daughter of Edgar M. Cullman. [9] He had three children from a previous marriage: Perrin Patricia Lucia Kirby, Timothy James Kirby, and John Andrew Pickens Kirby (married to Daphne Pinkerson, the co-founder of Blowback Productions); and a stepdaughter, Carolyn Sicher. [9] [1]

Edgar M. Cullman was an American businessman who served as President and CEO of General Cigar Company and is credited with transforming the image of cigars.

Blowback Productions

Blowback Productions is an independent film and television production company founded in 1988 by Marc Levin. Levin and his producing partner Daphne Pinkerson have made over 20 films and won numerous awards.

Kirby died on October 2, 2019, due to complications from myelodysplastic syndrome, 20 days before his 80th birthday. [1]

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "John Kirby's obituary". Legacy. October 4, 2019.
  2. Sheff 122.
  3. For an account of the Donkey Kong litigation, see "The 'Shroom:Issue LXII/A History of Video Games".
  4. Oxford, Nadia (October 4, 2019). "John Kirby, the Lawyer that Saved Nintendo, Dies at 79". USgamer. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
  5. Sheff, David (1999). Game Over: Press Start to Continue: The Maturing of Mario. Wilton, Connecticut: GamePress.
  6. Zablotny, Marc (September 20, 2012). "How did your favourite Nintendo characters get their names?". Official Nintendo Magazine . Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  7. Turi, Tim (June 17, 2011). "Miyamoto Talks Wii U, Zelda, And Nintendo's Past". Game Informer. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  8. "HAL Laboratory: Company Profile". Retrieved August 15, 2012.
  9. 1 2 Hochstein, Peter (March 22, 2010). Cigars and Other Passions: The Biography of Edgar M. Cullman. Trafford Publishing. p. 351. ISBN   9781426923692.