Before joining Nintendo in 1983, Howard Lincoln was an attorney at a private practice in Seattle. There he did legal work in 1981 for Nintendo, culminating in the legal case Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Nintendo Co., Ltd., in which Universal sued Nintendo claiming that the Donkey Kong infringed upon Universal's rights to King Kong. Famously, Nintendo won the case as well as successive court appeals. (The Nintendo character Kirby is named after the lawyer Lincoln hired to try the case.)
Lincoln thereafter joined Nintendo its Senior Vice President and General Counsel. In 1994, he was appointed chairman of Nintendo of America.
Lincoln would later also be known for his defense of the video game industry during the joint hearings in the early 1990s on videogame violence.