Michael Jackson: Patented Twinkle Toes

Michael Jackson: Patented Twinkle Toes

Ashlee Froese is an Osgoode Hall alumnus and currently practices intellectual property at the law firm of Keyser Mason Ball LLP.

I am sure you are all suffering from "CNN fatigue" from its over-coverage of Michael Jackson's death, but, as a Jackson fan, I couldn't resist writing this "did you know" blog to marry the world of IP with pop culture. 

Michael Jackson was arguably as famous for his dancing skills as he was for his eccentricities.  When reflecting on his performances, images of his glove, white socks and "trade-mark" dance moves are automatically conjured.  His talent seemed untouchable...and with the fortification of patent protection, Michael Jackson ensured it would remain that way.

Did you know that Michael Jackson's gravity defying side lean dance move (first seen in the music video "Smooth Criminal") was the subject of a granted patent, entitled "method and means for creating gravity defying illusion"?

The "background of the invention" component of the patent explains that he originally executed this dance move in music videos through the use of harnesses and cables.  However, the incorporation of the dance move into live concerts required an enhanced system as the audience would see Michael Jackson attach and detach himself to the harness and cables, thereby destroying the optical illusion. 

The secret to the live performance of his dance move lay in specially engineered shoes that attached to a retractable hitch that was embedded in the stage floor.  Michael Jackson seemingly defied gravity by sliding his foot forward into the hitch.  The hitch then protruded from the floor to allow Michael Jackson to lean forward past his centre of gravity.  A component of the patent lay in its disguise from the audience's naked eye.  Although the shoe rode relatively high on Michael Jackson's ankles, the straps were fashioned to make the shoe look like a penny loafer, which was further concealed by a sock-like covering.

Interestingly the patent protection prematurely ended due to a failure to pay maintenance fees.  There is speculation, however, that the Jackson estate is trying to revive the patent.