Michael Jackson's unfortunate passing highlighted his international fame and the value of the Michael Jackson brand. What was surprising to many was that Michael Jackson had major financial troubles before his death, which is why he decided to go on his final "This Is It" tour. Michael Jackson's music and products generated large amounts of income before his death, but I was stunned to see the magnitude of his earnings after his death. Since his death, the Michael Jackson brand, as reported by Billboard, has generated over $1 Billion from sales and a record deal.
Much of Michael Jackson's income was, and is, tied to his personal brand. There are 16 live trademarks that protect the Michael Jackson brand which range from a word mark filed in 1993 for "Planet Michael the Ultimate Michael Jackson Online Game," which was filed after his death on January 20, 2011, to a simple word mark for his first and last name.
Being a media legend, Michael Jackson and his business managers took full advantage of creating revenue streams from his personal brand. And as new products bearing his brand are released, the value of his trademarks will increase. But Michael Jackson is not the only dead celebrity to cash in on his brand's fame. Just to highlight a few: Albert Einstein's likeness has been licensed, generating over $75 Million over the past five years ("Baby Einstein" being one of those products using the Einstein name and likeness) and Elvis Presley's estate generates over $55 Million a year!
If the above teaches us anything, it's that trademarks are not only important as business brand names (see my previous posting about the famous Coca Cola trademark) but also tremendously important as personal brands for celebrities before and after their lifetime.
On a side note, Michael Jackson also obtained a U.S. Patent for his famous shoe illusion (click here to see Michael Jackson's Patent)