John J Kirby, Jr., the lawyer who successfully defended Nintendo in a legal battle against Universal in the '80s to save the Donkey Kong franchise, has passed away aged 79.

John J Kirby, Jr. (1939-2019)
John J Kirby, Jr. (1939-2019) — Image: via The New York Times

Kirby was a prominent attorney who represented the likes of Pepsi, America Online, and Nintendo. He successfully defended the video game giant from an infringement suit raised by Universal City Studios which claimed that Nintendo's arcade title, Donkey Kong, was illegally based on King Kong. It was found that Universal had previously stated that King Kong's story and characters were in the public domain.

Donkey Kong went on to be a hugely important milestone for Nintendo's western ambitions, and the company gave Kirby a sailboat named 'Donkey Kong' in thanks for his work. The New York Times reports that Kirby enjoyed sailing with his family by his homes in Westhampton Beach.

Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto has also previously revealed that the character Kirby was named in John's honour.

Our thoughts are with John's friends and family.