Check out the full notes for “Super Mario” by Jeff Ryan
In 1975, Universal had sued RKO, the original makers of King Kong. Universal, in a case-winning argument, had proved that King Kong was in public domain, since the movie was from 1933. Universal didn’t need to pay a dime to the “owners” of King Kong, because anyone could do whatever he wanted with King Kong. Kong was as unownable as Huck Finn. Then, Kirby asked for a summary dismissal of the suit. Granted.
Then he became the pink round hero described by Wikipedia as a “spherical pink protagonist”.
In any case, a great story about how the turn tables. Nintendo stood up to the bully in this case. Universal was opening cases against everyone that licensed Donkey Kong’s use in their own products. Universal said that Donkey Kong was a rip off of King Kong. Whether or not that was true, ultimately it didn’t matter because Universal didn’t have the rights in the first place.
Eventually, Nintendo becomes a bit of a bully themselves with how they handled publishing rights and limited cartridges. But that’s for later.
(Also later: Super Mario Bros. Movie distributed by… Universal. Not to mention the entire Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios.)