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Michael Jackson: Inventor of Anti-Gravity Illusion


Written by Gene Quinn
Patent Attorney & Founder of IPWatchdog, Inc.
Principal Lecturer, PLI Patent Bar Review Course
Posted: June 26, 2009 @ 4:46 pm

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By now it is certain that anyone living in any civilization around the world knows that Michael Jackson, the acclaimed entertainer and eccentric cultural icon, passed away late yesterday afternoon reportedly from an as yet unexplained cardiac arrest.  Many will no doubt be focusing on Jackson’s contribution to the entertainment industry, and perhaps even his ownership of the copyrights to the songs written by The BeatlesJohn Lennon and Sir Paul McCartney.  Few will likely focus on Michael Jackson the inventor though.  Yes, the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, was an inventor and received a United States Patent in 1993 for an invention titled Method and means for creating anti-gravity illusion. Here are some of the images of the Jackson patent, US Patent No. 5,255,452:

 

 

In the Description of the Prior Art contained it explains:

Music entertainers and dancers are constantly searching for new and interesting elements which can be incorporated into their musical and dance performances. Interesting stage design, lighting, fog generators, laser light shows, and large video screens all enhance the appealability of live and recorded performances. Many popular music and dance entertainers expend great efforts in enhancing and choreographing their performances and dancing. 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, thereby allowing the dancer to lean forward at the required degree. However, since this requires stagehands to connect and then disconnect the cables, it has not been possible to use this system in live performances. Moreover, the cables obviously restricted arm and body movements.

The inventor described in the first sentence of the second paragraph above was none other than Michael Jackson.

The Summary of the Invention explains:

The present invention overcomes the above noted deficiencies of the previously employed cable system by providing specialized footwear and a moveable hitch or post to which the specialized footwear can be detachably engaged to allow the footwear wearer to lean forward on the stage, with his or her center of gravity well beyond the front of the shoes, thereby creating the desired visual effect. The invention provides a new design for shoes which will allow his or her performing artist, by engaging the shoes onto an upstanding post positioned to project upwardly from a stage at a predetermined time, to lean forwardly to put his or her center of gravity beyond the front or rear of his shoes, thereby creating the desired gravity defying interesting visual effect.


Claim 1 of the patent covers:

1. A system for engaging shoes with a hitch mans to permit a person standing on a stage surface to lean forwardly beyond his or her center of gravity, comprising: at least one shoe having a heel with a first engagement means, said first engagement means comprising a recess formed in a heel of said shoe covered with a heel slot plane located at a bottom region of said heel, said heel slot plate having a slot formed therein with a relatively wide opening at a leading edge of said heel and a narrower terminal end rearward of said leading edge, said recess being larger in size above said terminal end of said slot than is said terminal end of said slot; and a second engagement means, detachably engageable with said first engagement means, comprising a hitch member having an enlarged head portion connected by a narrower shank portion to a means for raising and lowering said head of said hitch member above and substantially level with or below said stage surface, said head portion being larger in size than said terminal end of said slot and said shank portion being narrower than said terminal end of said slot, wherein said hitch member can be moved through apertures in said stage surface between a projecting position raised above said stage surface and a retracted position at or below the stage surface, and when said head portion of said hitch member is raised above said stage surface, said first engagement means can be detachably engaged with said projecting hitch member, thereby allowing a person wearing the shoes to lean forwardly with his or her normal center of gravity beyond a front region of said shoes, and maintain said forward lean.

Whether you liked Michael Jackson or not, it is hard to argue that he was not an extremely influential player in the music industry for at least 4 decades.  His passing comes as a shock to many, and early reports suggest that he may have fallen in much the same manner as did the King of Rock & Roll, Elvis Presley.  It is far to early to tell.  Undoubtedly we will learn more in the coming days, weeks and months, and it is all but certain that Jackson will dominate TV, magazines and the Internet even from the grave.  Today we celebrate him as an inventor, partaking in a process that so many innovate Americans have.  In the coming days we will explore his copyright portfolio, and even his impact on law students subjected to considering the hypothetical questions of copyright law professors regarding whether Weird Al Yankovic infringed Jackson’s work, which as my former students know is a favorite topic of conversation for me, and a popular exam question on many of my copyright law final exams.


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Posted in: Copyright, Entertainment Industry, Gene Quinn, IP News, IPWatchdog.com Articles

About the Author

is a Patent Attorney and the founder of the popular blog IPWatchdog.com, which has for three of the last four years (i.e., 2010, 2012 and 2103) been recognized as the top intellectual property blog by the American Bar Association. He is also a principal lecturer in the PLI Patent Bar Review Course. As an electrical engineer with a computer engineering focus his specialty is electronic and computer devices, Internet applications, software and business methods.

 

9 comments
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  1. does anybody know whatever happened to the patent?? why didn’t it go though?

  2. The patent has lapsed due to non-payment of a maintenance fee.

    Re-stated, it is no longer enforceable.

    The statement of a patent not going through is not really applicable – if a patent issues, it has gone through.

    Maybe I am not understanding your intent, though.

  3. Just to set the record straight on the last part of the article: “Weird Al” Yankovic obtains permission from the artists he parodies. Michael Jackson was no exception; in fact, in interviews Al has proudly stated that contracts exist that both he and Michael have signed listing them as the co-writers of “Eat It” and “Fat.” So there is really no way Al’s work could be argued as copyright infringement.

  4. Catradhtem-

    Thanks so much for setting the record straight. I know that though, as do most, and my article next week will go into detail about this.

    Nevertheless, it is an excellent question that forces students learning copyright law to ask themselves whether there would be a copyright infringement. With each Weird Al song the analysis changes slightly, and copyright infringement and defenses thereto are all about facts, so each song requires picking critical facts that support or mitigate a finding of infringement. Without permission Al’s works would always infringe the copyright in the music, likely not infringe the lyrics and sometimes infringe of the choreography. The reason this is such a good exercise is because it is interesting, fun and engages the students. They are also forced to walk through an entire copyright infringement analysis and all applicable defenses.

    I have heard from colleagues over the years that it is not a good question because it is counter factual. In my opinion that criticism is just plain silly. It is a perfectly legitimate question and thought experiment even if Weird Al gets permission. In fact, a parody case involving “Pretty Woman” and a 2 Live Crew parody made it all the way to the US Supreme Court.

    -Gene

  5. Following the forward citations leads to an unexpected use as prior art in an aerospace patent.

    http://andromeda-30.blogspot.com/2009/06/patent-thriller.html

  6. Gene, you mention “In fact, a parody case involving “Pretty Woman” and a 2 Live Crew parody made it all the way to the US Supreme Court.”

    You also mention that “permission Al’s works would always infringe the copyright in the music, likely not infringe the lyrics and sometimes infringe of the choreography.”

    Didn’t the 2 Live Crew case you cite throw out your first statement? I’m drawing this from memory, so I could be way off…

    but doesn’t Fair Use, involving parody, include fair use of each of music, lyrics and choreography as components of the entire single act of parody? If the components can be counted separably, then the single act of parody is counted as parody of each and all elements and thus still considered Fair Use?

  7. This patent was bogus – the result of lazy patent attorneys. In 1954, a travelling magician came to my school with the same designed shoes. I know since I was a stooge from the audience of 12-year olds who was wearing the shoes. He had previously placed bolts in the floor of the stage (I have no idea how he convinced the Principal to allow this). As he “hypnotized” me, I slid the shoes over the bolts. Next I leaned forward well beyond my center of gravity to the amazement of my friends. I never revealed how I did this trick until now.

  8. Jackson also had various Trademarks Registrations including U.S. Registration No. 1,908,209 for the mark “MICHAEL JACKSON” for use on “sound recordings; namely, pre-recorded phonograph records, audio tapes, compact discs, videotapes, and motion picture films featuring music and entertainment.”

    In addition to Registrations there are several Trademark Applications which include Serial Nos. 77/480,301 and 77/480,413 for “THRILLER 25 THE WORLD’S BIGGEST SELLING ALBUM OF ALL TIME”, both of which are still pending.

  9. there is no doubt that Michael Jackson is the best ever pop music artist of the Centruy.':