Law Students Study Jackson's Dance-Move Patent

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In the video for the song "Smooth Criminal," Michael Jackson leans way forward, yet he doesn't fall. It's an illusion that Jackson had patented. Lawyer Gene Quinn teaches this unusual patent to his law students. Quinn says the patent, which has expired, sheds light on Jackson's personality and business acumen.


Today is the public memorial for Michael Jackson, and our last word in business is Michael Jackson, the inventor. If you've ever seen the video of the song, "Smooth Criminal," you may recall the moment in which Jackson leans way forward, way over his center of gravity and he doesn't fall.

(Soundbite of song, "Smooth Criminal")

Mr. MICHAEL JACKSON (Singer, Performer): Annie, are okay? Annie, are you okay? Are you okay, Annie? Annie are you okay? Will you tell us that you're okay? There's sign in the window…

MONTAGNE: The leaning forward was an illusion that Jackson actually patented. He obtained the patent in 1993, and it involves a shoe that clamps to the stage. Lawyer Gene Quinn teaches about this unusual patent to his students.

Professor GENE QUINN (Law Professor, Patent Lawyer): Most patents are obtained with the idea that this is something that can be sold to others, or perhaps licensed to others. His goal doesn't seem to have been to license this so others could do it and he could reap the benefits, but rather to keep others away from doing what came out to be something of a famous Michael Jackson move.

MONTAGNE: That patent has no monetary value because it's long since expired. But Quinn says it's still valuable for the light it sheds on Michael Jackson's personality and business acumen.

(Soundbite of song, "Smooth Criminal")

MONTAGNE: And that's the business news on MORNING EDITION from NPR News. We will be back tomorrow. I'm Renee Montagne.

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