In his 1979 article, Masquelier proposes that this group of flavanols be designated as “pycnogenols.” He coined the word on the basis of the fact that flavanols have this natural and spontaneous tendency to “thicken,” to condense. The Greek “pycno” means “thick,” the “gen” parts stand for generate and the “ol” suffix comes from flavanol.
While preparing behind his typewriter for his “set-the record straight” article, Masquelier didn’t have a clue that the name he was coining would become the subject of heated legal trademark battles. Being a scientist and not a trademark lawyer,
Masquelier never realizes that his “pycnogenols” could rise from the generic way he used it at first, to a real trademark. Whatever the legal status of the word, it was Masquelier’s intention that the name be used to designate the totality of the extract, that is obtained from various vegetal sources by means of the use of his patented methods of extraction.
The reason why the original word is pycnogenols (plural) is because Masquelier wanted to indicate that his extracts contain the monomers, the dimmers and the trimmers, each of them being a “pycnogenol.”
The commercial exploitation of Masquelier’s “pycnogenols” extracts had been put in the hands of a company by the name of Centre d’Experimentation Pharmaceutique (CEP), situated in Leognan (France). Masquelier was partner in CEP, until in April 1994, he and his 3 partners sold all of CEP’s shares. CEP changed it seat of business to Valbonne (France). When the use of the name pycnogenols as a trademark surfaced as an issue, Masquelier decided that, since he was the inventor and owner of the name, all registrations of “Pycnogenols” as a trademark would remain the responsibility of CEP/SCERPA. So, in 1989, he registered the name “Pycnogenols” as trademark for the first time. The registration is French, No. 1522228 and was done in the name of Masquelier’s Societe Civile pour l’Expansion de la Recherche en Phytochimie Appliquee” (SCERPA). When Masquelier sold his shares in CEP he also sold this trademark registration. Also, Masquelier wanted to maintain control over “Pycnogenols” since he wanted to prevent the use of the trademark from being limited to one particular extract. It has been his intention that whatever the vegetal source, the name would always apply, provided that the extraction is done according to his method. Unfortunately for Masquelier, CEP and SCERPA the good intentions and good faith have not been sufficient tools to protect their intellectual property. “Pycnogenol” has been deposited and registered as a trademark in many countries. In some countries this was done with Masquelier’s explicit consent. But in other countries the registration was done by parties unknown to him or which he had explicitly forbidden to do so. What remains is some bitterness on his part, especially because he feels that pycnogenols without the “s” is a misnomer.
Chemically speaking, the name should have been “Pycnogenols”… Buy three get one free.