Unexpectedly Intriguing!
15 June 2018

Michael Jackson was many things. One of the most popular entertainers of all time, with a career that spanned over four decades until his death at Age 51 in 2009, the proverbial "King of Pop" was an extraordinary musical talent who left an indelible mark on audiences around the world who remember him primarily through his sheer talent for singing, songwriting, and dancing, where his live performances often set new standards.

One reason why that was the case is because Jackson's creative ability didn't stop with singing, songwriting or dancing. Michael Jackson was a genuine inventive talent, who has a patent to prove it!

U.S. Patent 5,255,452 for a "Method and Means for Creating Anti-Gravity Illusion" was issued on 26 October 1993 to Michael Jackson and two co-inventors, Michael L. Bush and Dennis Tompkins. We'll let the patent's background section explain how the invention came to be:

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 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.

That's a pretty dry description for the visual effect that could be achieved using Jackson's invention, so it might be better just to show a video clip of it in action during one of his live performances. If you want to skip ahead, you can see it at the 3:30 mark.

Compare that visual effect with how the dance move was originally executed with the use of a cable system in the official music video of the song, where you can catch it at the 7:04 mark.

Giving credit where it's due, we learned of Michael Jackson's patent from Cosmos' Andrew Masterson (via Newmark's Door), who wrote up the story of the research of a team of neurosurgeons who specialize in spinal biomechanics, who were investigating how Jackson and other dancers performing with him were able to execute the seemingly physics-defying stunt during live performances.

There was nothing at all like it before Michael Jackson, which is really the proof of true innovation.

Inventions in Everything: The Archives

We're in the final countdown for the issuance of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's 10,000,000th utility patent, which we expect to be released on Tuesday, 19 June 2018. And what better way to celebrate the spirit of American invention that has led to ten million utility patents than by sampling the handful of some of the more creative patents that the Inventions in Everything team has explored!


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