Donkey Kong Case

Refers to the lawsuit Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Nintendo Co., Ltd. in which Universal sued Nintendo for trademark infringement of King Kong by the name and characters in Donkey Kong. The case was a debacle for Universal, described by at least survey as one of the “25 Dumbest Moments in Gaming.” A ludicrous aspect of the case was that Universal had a few years earlier, in order to make a remake of the movie King Kong, successfully shown that the plot and characters of King Kong were in the public domain in a lawsuit against the studio that created the original movie – Universal City Studios, Inc. v. RKO General, Inc. As the court bluntly put it

“Universal knew, as a result of the RKO litigation, that it had no rights to any visual image of King Kong from the classic movie or its remake. Nonetheless, Universal, when it seemed beneficial, made sweeping assertions of rights …”

Universal lost in the District Court on almost all important issues, lost on appeal, and on remand found itself hit with $1.8 million in legal costs – which in 1985 was a very expensive case. Although the Donkey Kong case is often discussed, it is hard to say that it actually “broke new legal ground” so that it is hard to say anything kind about Universal’s judgment in bringing the case other than hubris brings foolishness.

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