its a trademark, not a patent, so it never expires
The trademark will stand until someone successfully challenges it. What makes it very difficult to challenge is that Gibson and Seymour Duncan weren't interested in double cream when DiMarzio was almost only doing double cream and zebra for several years. It was an oversight on Seymour Duncan and Gibson's part not to have an even distribution of double creme, zebra and black bobbins in their production. That's all that it would have took for DiMarzio to be unable to defend their trademark or really even get one in the first place. Instead, Gibson and SD continued making predominantly black and zebra bobbins and never had a presence with double cream. This is the reason why the trademark will never be successfully challenged IMHO.
Double cream is sort of a niche color scheme anyways... I personally LOVE them, but I am a weirdo in at least several ways and not very metal. You'd be hard pressed to find many metal players that would be interested in double cream bobbins.
I'm a Hamer guy and Hamer was traditionally known for a double cream bridge and zebra neck. So I appreciate the look of creme rings around double cream bobbins. I wear black clothing when I DJ or do a photoshoot but that's 'cause it's my uniform. I've always liked brighter and more vivid colors... I can't help it.
The best and only advice I can give you is to buy 2 of the same pickups... one zebra and the other reverse zebra. Combine the two like colored bobbins and after you're done, sell the black one. Banjomikez usually has a great selection of Shop Floor Customs in his inventory, you should be able to get most models in reverse zebra and if he doesn't have any listed, contact him and you'll probably get hooked up.
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As Jeremy pointed out, a trademark never expires. Think of Coca Cola with their red and white script logo or the blue Ford oval expiring and another company using it. Same thing with double creme.
Personally, I like the parchment bobbins. I just wish they were available as trembucker spacing without having to order a floor custom.
The bottom line with trademarks is whether the "art" or "name" in question runs reasonable likelihood of creating confusion. If SD was only pickup manufacturer to use/produce black pickups, and someone came along to produce the same........it would be a hard sell to convince anyone SD had a legal monopoly on black pickups. A legal monopoly on cream colored pickups seems odd and weak, but lots of times the best route is the path of least resistance. On a related note has anyone tried out/heard those psychedelic pickups now available from SD??? Thanks!
The trademark is silly, because many pickup companies outside the US make double cream pickups. Bare Knuckles is one of them. Not much of a trademark either since Gibson started the double cream thing.
I think that eventually the trademark will expire because someone with enough time and money will challenge the trademark and win. In the meantime, you can get around it by buying pickups from outside the US, getting a zebra set and make a hybrid out of the two cream bobbins, or get a white or parchment set and dip the pickup in coffee/cola/caramel-light brown colored liquid.
I think the trademark is US only. With BKP their store is in the UK and I don't think they have any distributor in the US.
US only!I think that eventually the trademark will expire because someone with enough time and money will challenge the trademark and win.
...and like Zen said, maybe it would've been valid when the trademark was first issued,
but good luck doing it now, after 40 something years
There aren't enough sales of double cream pickups to warrant the legal expense of fighting the trademark.
Buy double white bobbins. mess them. double cream. Then when the Pickup IRS come a knocking, you reply "I accidentally my pickups."
There's nothing less metal than trying to act metal.
I think someone cares. SD sued DiMarzio over this and lost. ("Sued" might not be the correct term.)
But I hope Larry D understands, this silly issue is the reason I'll never buy a DMZ pickup. Although, I doubt he'll lose any sleep over that.
SD did some probing but IIRC did not sue.
In Europe it has been clarified that color trademarks only apply to complete products but not parts of products. The US hasn't said either way. An actual lawsuit would probably clarify this and I think Dimarzio would lose since they specifically argue that "during the 1970s double cream humbucker guitars carried Dimarzios", so by their own admission their tradmarked thing is just a part of something.
I wonder if anyone is just too scared of trying? I do think that eventually Dimarzio will end up losing the trademark one way or another. But it doesn't matter that much to me because it is easy to get around and I really only care for covered, black, and zebra humbuckers.
I love Duncan and Dimarzio. There's no way in hell I'd buy two zebra and make a double cream. Just do zebra. It looks good. Or, buy Dimarzio. Love their PAF in my LP over my 59's, Bonamassas AND my slash set,
"It keeps you fit - the alcohol, nasty women, sweat on stage, bad food - it's all very good for you." -Bon Scott
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not to keep beating a dead horse but..what if a different shade of cream or white is used to simply bypass this trademark nonsense? or maybe just age the white ones?