On occasion, you may need to look up a bar code number. If you are a consumer, you might want to find contact information for the company who made the product you are buying. If you purchase products for a retail business or grocery store, you might need to find manufacturer contact information in order to source a new product. If you are an application provider you might just need to confirm who owns a bar code number.
Fortunately there are a few databases available for looking up a bar code number or UPC number. Unfortunately, we have not found a database that is anywhere near complete.
The GS1.org database is likely the largest bar code database, called GEPIR (Global Electronic Party Information Registry). GEPIR offers contact details for more than 1 million companies. When a company joins GSI, they receive a Global Company Prefix (GCP). This prefix becomes the base for a company's UPC numbers, to use on products, etc. So, whenever someone types in a bar code number for a product into the database, the search will bring up the company who uses that prefix, along with contact information for the company.
The catch here is that the GSI.org database only shows vendors who purchased their bar code through GS1 itself. Due to higher prices and annual fees for continued use of a bar code number, generally only larger companies buy bar codes through GSI. However, there are companies who purchased large numbers of bar codes before August 2002 (when GS1 started prohibiting sales of licensed numbers to other organizations), and have chosen to resell their unused UPC numbers to smaller companies at more affordable prices and without the annual fees.
Since there are tens of millions of bar codes that were and continue to be legally purchased from third party vendors over the years, the GS1 database is definitely not complete, moreover, it is optional for GS1 members to post the item information relating to a particular UPC code, and, sadly, many don't bother.
Authenticated UPC Registration Directory
In an effort to support legitimate bar code resellers and the companies that purchase bar codes from them, George Laurer, the creator of the U.P.C. Bar code, has established the Authenticated UPC Registration Directory. This website allows registration of UPC codes purchased in the aftermarket, and provides information about the reseller, the official new owner, and their products. It also makes a note when a bar code number has not been resold but still belongs to the prefix owner.
The Authenticated UPC Registration Directory is helpful for new or small manufacturers who need to buy a bar code from a reseller, but want to verify that the bar code number is legitimate and free from licensing entanglements. This is important since getting caught with a fake or copied UPC number would ruin a manufacturer's credibility with a potential retailer.
It is simple for a UPC prefix owner who wishes to resell unused numbers to join the Authenticated UPC Registration Directory. They simply provide their company information, pay a small fee to support the site, and send copies of original documentation for their UPC prefix. Manufacturers can use the site to find legitimate bar code resellers, and retailers can use the site to verify that a vendor has legitimate bar code numbers, as well as find additional information on a company or product.
Another source to look up a UPC code is through apps like ShopSavvy or ScanLife. Both of these companies have apps for iPhone and Android products, and they have a tens of millions of item numbers in their databases.
Written by Craig Aberle
Updated Feb 27, 2015