Frequently Asked Questions

GS1 Company Prefix, Barcodes, and Identification

Looking for your Prefix Certificate?

I'm thinking about getting barcodes from GS1 US, but first I need to know...

A company prefix that complies with GS1 Standards (a “GS1 Company Prefix”) is a unique identification number that is assigned to just your company by GS1 US. It’s the foundation of GS1 Standards and can be found in all of the GS1 Identification Numbers. The most common examples are GTINs (Global Trade Item Numbers) and GLNs (Global Location Numbers).

Obtaining a GS1 Company Prefix provides proof that your company, and only your company, is authorized to use a particular GS1 Company Prefix. To verify this, your customers can view the GS1 Company Database (GEPIR®), the database of all unique GS1 Company Prefixes and the companies to which they are registered.

Learn more and apply for a GS1 Company Prefix. Go to our Get Started Guide >

The first-year cost of obtaining a GS1 Company Prefix ranges from $250 for 10 products to $10,500 for 100,000 products. Each year after that, there is an annual license renewal fee which allows continued use of the unique prefix number. Annual license renewal fees range from $50 to $2100.

Learn more about pricing in our Get Started Guide > 

The cost of a GS1 Company Prefix is determined by the number of digits in the prefix. You should carefully consider the number of products you are currently producing. Keep in mind that each variation of a product needs a unique Global Trade Item Number® (GTIN®) that will then be placed in your U.P.C. barcodes. For example, if a style/model of a product is produced in four colors and four sizes, you would need to assign 16 unique numbers (GTINs) to that particular style. You should also consider the amount of products your company is planning to produce in the near future (about three years). That way, you will have enough numbering capacity and can avoid need for additional prefixes too frequently.

Learn more about company prefix capacity. Go to our Get Started Guide.

If you exhaust the numbering capacity of your GS1 Company Prefix, you should obtain an additional one. As your business grows, it may be worth investigating if the additional prefix that you are planning to acquire should have greater numbering capacity. This way, you won’t have to come back as frequently and may be able to save money over time.

I already have barcodes from GS1 US, but now I need to know...

If you have licensed a GS1 Company Prefix, GS1 US GTIN, or Global Location Number, log in to myGS1 US, our online member center, click on the Identifier Certificates, and download a copy of your certificate(s)

The difference between a GS1 Company Prefix and a U.P.C. Company Prefix is that the GS1 Company Prefix has a zero added to the beginning of the number. Use the U.P.C. Company Prefix to assign GTINs and create U.P.C. barcodes for products that are sold at a store or online. Use the GS1 Company Prefix for all other GS1 identifiers.

Your GS1 Company Prefix can be found on your GS1 Company Prefix Certificate. You can also find your GS1 Company Prefix by visiting the GS1 Company Database (GEPIR). You can search the database by Company Name, GTIN, GLN, or SSCC.

Yes. Your customers can verify your GS1 Company Prefix by visiting the GS1 Company Database (GEPIR). They can search the database by Company Name, GTIN, GLN, or SSCC.

If you allow your Prefix License Agreement to expire, your prefix will be terminated. You will not be authorized to use the U.P.C. on your products. Your access to GS1 US tools and resources will be terminated; you will NOT be able to use these for your barcodes. Your company would no longer appear in the GS1 Company Database, so customers wouldn’t be able to verify your U.P.C.s, which may cause a delay in selling your products. Be sure and keep your GS1 Company Prefix license current by paying your annual renewal fee on time.

Maybe. Even though your product may not have launched, you may want to maintain your GS1 Company Prefix License because it allows you to sell new products to retailers and distributors in the future.

Barcodes, GTINs, and Identification

A GTIN® (pronounced Gee-Tin) is the acronym for Global Trade Item Number® It’s a number that uniquely identifies a product and can be found below a U.P.C. barcode symbol. GTINs are used as the global standard to identify products.

U.P.C. is the acronym for Universal Product Code. It is the most used barcode in the world and is seen on just about every product in physical stores and online. You may find that your customers will ask you to place a U.P.C. barcode on your products or packages.

GTINs, U.P.C.s, and other types of barcodes are often confused as the same thing – but they are different. A GTIN is a number that identifies the product itself and the U.P.C. is the barcode that allows the GTIN to be scanned by a barcode reader, like the ones at the checkout counter of a physical store or the distribution center of online retailers. GTINs by themselves are typically used in online retail, in databases, and in electronic transactions, such as EDI.

No, but when you become a GS1 US member, you receive a unique GS1 Company Prefix which allows you to create identification numbers for barcodes that you use for your products, locations, shipping units, and more.

GS1 US does not sell barcodes, but when you obtain a GS1 Company Prefix, you have the ability to create identification numbers for barcodes that you use for your products, locations, and more. When obtaining a GS1 Company Prefix, refer to the pricing schedule and select the GS1 Company Prefix capacity that best suits your needs.

In no instance should you alter barcodes or add/delete any of the numbers below a barcode. These numbers make up your GTINs (Global Trade Item Numbers). To ensure proper identification, you will want to include all digits of your GTIN with the proper barcode size when communicating information about your product. If you randomly add or remove any of the digits, you may inadvertently use another company’s number and you will not be identified as the license holder of that prefix.

Be careful not to cut off or shrink the barcodes as you run the risk that scanners will not correctly read them at checkout. Review Step Four of the Get Started Guide for industry standards related to the size, shape, and colors of barcodes.

No. In order to properly track and price products, a new GTIN should be assigned for each product and variation of the product such as size, color, and package counts. For more information on how to manage GTINs, go to Step Two of the Get Started Guide.

Yes, GS1 US Data Hub® | Company offers an option called List Match that will match company information against a list of U.P.C.s/GTINs or GLNs that you provide. The data that’s returned from the List Match is the same data we return from a standard GS1 US Data Hub | Company “search,” including Entity GLN, U.P.C. Company Prefix, GS1 Company Prefix, company name, address, the date of the last modification to each record, and the Global Service Relation Number (GSRN).

The first step is to obtain a GS1 Company Prefix. The second step is to create an item reference number. The third step is to calculate the check digit. Go to the Get Started Guide for help with these steps.

The short answer is “maybe.” More and more online companies are requiring GTINs and U.P.C.s for unique product identification, so it is always a good idea to check the vendor requirements documents that are generally published by retailers.

The GTIN in a U.P.C. barcode is not automatically linked to barcode scanning applications on the internet. They are simply used to identify your products at various points in the supply chain. There are numerous internet apps you can explore for smartphone purposes, but GS1 US does not provide any.

GLN is an acronym for “Global Location Number”. A GLN is a GS1 Identification Number and is used primarily in electronic messages to identify legal and physical locations.

Your GS1 Company Prefix Certificate is the best place to find your GLN. You will see it listed as a “Legal Entity GLN.” It will show the location of the company you enter in your GS1 Company prefix application. Once you locate your “Legal Entity GLN,” you can communicate it to your customers.

No. You can use your existing GS1 Company Prefix to assign GLNs, just as you do for your GTINs/U.P.C.s. For more information on GLNs, go to the Get Started Guide section about GLNs.

Have additional questions? Contact us.