Company types

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Corporate name terminology drawn partially from our data

Early aero companies have various suffixes, or sometimes prefixes, to their names, associated with legal designations in different countries and we can define the terms here, their legal meanings, and any de facto observed attributes of the different types:

Germany and Austria

Here we have the German language's capacities of noun compounding, which is not always consistent, even within one company's usage, as shown across German documents. Things get more complicated with sporadic hyphenation, variable mixing of abbreviation into the process, and with semi-standardized ideas of any company's common name.

  • G.m.b.H.: German corporation -- “Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung” – “company with limited liability”[1]
  • AG - “Aktiengesellshaft” - “private company”[2] ; (-or-) “Arbeitsgemeinschaft” - “study group”[3] The "work" or "labor" implied by "Arbeit(s)" also further suggests that this "study" is of a specifically professional nature, of course. There may be a formal or an informal analogue to the working groups of Great Britain and the ateliers of France. (We are not always certain on any fluidity in the usage of some of these corporate terms, and we “standardize” whether towards abbreviations or towards full incorporation terminology in reaction to the usage found across our data. The antique sources themselves always look quite proper, each in isolation, but protocols of hyphenation, the mixing of compound nouns, the breaking up thereof, these things seem to have been handled variably, across sources, even among the references to sole particular firms.)


  • Société - This is used as “corporation” is used in our contemporary English. The francophone usage of “corporation” has heavier governmental overtones. While the word “société” retains its abstract and more general meanings, it is also used as a catch-all way of designating some organization as a firm. Within antique sources, the use of the word, whether by a governmental or otherwise external compiler of data, for purposes of external classification, or as part of the actual name of the firm itself, isn't always clear. Usage of this mere “Société”, as opposed to “Société anonyme”, may or may not specifically indicate limitations on the intercorporate scope of the firm in question.
  • Société anonyme - This has to do with, among other things possibly, the ability of a firm to trade shares and enter alliances with other domestic or foreign firms.[4] This is key, and it may be that most French firms in our data had this legal status whether or not said designation is explicit anywhere near whichever firm's per se “name”.
  • Établissement(s) - establishment(s) - This is another generally corporate name, though it may have been used more often intrinsically, that is within the name of the firm itself. This is uncertain. Whether as singular or plural it signifies the aggregate of facilities and so forth used or owned in the interests of whichever form or organization.[5]
  • “Cie”(“compagnie”) - This is simply like the English “company”, with “et Cie” often following the name of the founder, for instance.
  • Atelier” is “Workshop”, with multiple colleagues-workers, and is sometimes used, in either the singular or the plural, as part of a corporate name, such as “Ateliers d'aviation Louis Bréguet”.

Within the francophone phraseology outlined above, many of the terms may be used in combination.


  • PLC (British)
  • “Ltd.” British and American?
  • “Inc.” (American)
  • Corporation ; these are often entitled on a State-by-State basis, within the American system, so we have a "Corporation of Maine"[6], for instance, and a "Corporation of Pennsylvania"[7], and a "Corporation of California"[8],and a "Corporation of Michigan"[9], and even a "Corporation of Arizona Territory".[10] The name of the company, or even its specific location, may not reflect the State (or Territory) with which the corporate status is associated.


Hungarian often uses terms in combination, with “Részvénytársaság”, for instance, designating a joint stock company. This linguistic capacity seems to be intrinsic to the Magyar language, noun-compounding, perhaps nudged in some cases by the influence of German corporations and German corporate culture.

  • Betéti-Társaság - Einlagen-Unternehmen - Deposit Company - Société de dépôt (“Betéti-Társaság” comes up within our Hungarian patent data[11]).
  • Czég, Cég, Vállalat - Company
  • Résvénytársaság (sometimes abbreviated as "R. T.") - Joint stock company
  • Gyár - Factory, or corporation, particularly as a particle within a compounded noun
  • Műszergyár - Instrumentenfabrik - Instrument factory - Usine d’instruments ; note : Műszer is instrument, and gyár is factory. Noun compounding again seems to be natural within magyar.

Pre-corporate organizational types

These have to do with the earlier stages of aero-innovation and the developments associated with aero-industrialization.

Prominent names are involved in these. The phenomena have to do with the cultivation of applied knowledge, pertinent to early aero-technical development analyzed as a social network, for one thing. Also, with a degree of meritocracy presumably involved, these groups, ranging in degrees of formality, also address the analyses we have come to associate with the low quality patent, or with the avoidance of such a designation.

Chadeau, Emmanuel, 1985, État, Entreprise & Développement Économique : L’Industrie Aéronautique en France (1900-1940) Thèse pour le Doctorat, unpublished version gives us some data on these proto-corporate organizational as pertaining to France.

Bamfourth, Catherine Jill, Abbott, Malcolm, Entrepreneurs of the sky: Case studies on entrepreneurial learning from the early British aviation industry, 2019 should shed some light on these developments as pertaining to Great Britain.

Types of incorporation relative to the patenting process

  • A dedicated inventor, usually after some success, may or may not incorporate, largely in the interests of the furtherance of his or her own work. Said corporation may or may not take on the patents of other inventors.
  • A pre-existing company may own rights and file patents of various inventors, to the extent that we do not always have data on the inventor. This is one of a few ways in which third party filings may indicate the economic viability of an invention. See low quality patent‎.

Variable corporatist trajectories

  • We are dealing with the processes of industrialization.
  • Phenomena of corporate consolidation fit most neatly into these patterns, and may be the rule, rather than the exception. We do also note factors of corporate branching, or splitting, division beyond that of the creation of subsidiary organizations. All of this pertains to patent agents, for instance, as well as to the organizations engaged in the actual design and production of aircraft.