Singer, dancer, illusionist…inventor? Michael Jackson?s patent


Michael Jackson, although not the originator of the idea, holds the patent on specially designed footwear. No, these aren?t the Moon Walk spats. This footgear is the secret behind his gravity defying 45 degree angle stance on stage.

The patent application explained that: "In the past, a professional entertainer, one of the inventors herein, has incorporated dance steps in his recorded video performances, wherein he and other dancers would lean forward beyond their center of gravity, thereby creating an impressive visual effect. This effect was accomplished by the use of cables connecting a harness around the dancer’s waist with hooks on a stage ? since this requires stagehands to connect and then disconnect the cables, it has not been possible to use this system in live performances."

To overcome the limitation of cables, shoes that stuck to the floor keeping the off balance entertainer from falling on his face, were devised. Jackson?s performances are considered by some to be out of this world. His shoes may even have been inspired by those worn by astronauts. His application cites "previous art," meaning similar earlier inventions, involving footwear worn by astronauts that can be "detachably engaged with a rail fixed to a surface to aid astronauts in working in a zero gravity environment."

Illustration from MJ's approved patent applicationThe application goes on to say that prior art doesn?t allow the entertainer to "freely move about a stage, while at the same time, enabling engagement with a movable hitch or post, projectable through the stage floor, to enable the illusion to be performed." During a performance, a post would rise from the stage at a predetermined time and place to engage the uniquely contrived shoe.

Jackson does not stand alone to receive credit for the device. Three names are listed as inventors: Michael J. Jackson, Michael L. Bush, and Dennis Tompkins, with assignee as Triumph International, Inc. Fourteen figures show the design and intention of the footwear.

In addition to the patent, Jackson holds trademarks which gave him exclusive rights to use his name on appropriate records, tapes, CD?s videotapes and motion picture films. You can see an exhibit of Jackson?s patent and trademark applications at the National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum in Alexandria, Virginia. The United States Patent and Trademark Office has provided the materials.

The free exhibit is running from July 15 through September 7, 2009. Weekday hours are 9am?5pm, Saturday 12pm-5pm.