Our Barcodes not GS1?

It is a common misconception among many uninformed customers to think that the only way they can obtain valid and genuine barcodes for their products is through GS1. To be clear, the barcodes that we trade are completely legitimate and valid.
If they were not, we’d face continual legal challenges, which we don’t.
However, the barcodes we trade predated and escaped regulation / monopolization by the largest international body, GS1.

Timeline to GS1 regulation

In 1969 the retail industry in the US tried to speed check-out processes in shops and tasked a committee with finding a solution. The committee selected the 12-digit Universal Product Code (UPC) as the single standard for unique product identification. An organization known as Uniform Code Council (UCC) was founded in the USA to administer the standard, and the first shop scan was in 1974.The 12-digit code was expanded to 13 digits, facilitating the code being used outside of the US.

As a not-for-profit organization, UCC (GS1-US) initially allocated barcode numbers in batches of 100 000, regardless of the user requirement i.e. a user wanting only 20 barcodes obtained 100 000.

The rationale was that the available barcode number pool was so great that they would never be fully utilized.

This resulted in millions of surplus barcode numbers owned by companies in the USA

At that historical point UCC members could use company prefixes in issued barcodes and were entitled to a range of benefits.

In Brussels members from 12 countries established the 13-digit European Article Numbering Association (EAN). In 1990 the EAN and UCC had to sign a global cooperation agreement, with combined presence spread across 45 countries. The new organization (EAN + UCC) became present GS1.

In 2002 GS1 attempted to codify the agreement with Barcode prefix holders which included
renewal fees. The codified agreement included rules that were in the form of a contract which
included not being able to subdivide a barcode number. Prior to this, none of this existed. This resulted in dissension from members, who brought a class action against the UCC and won.

The UCC settled out of court in August 2002.
In the settlement the UCC agreed, among other concessions that these members would have perpetual membership without fees, they could retain their company prefixes, and that members joining before August 2002 could not be charged any additional fees.

i.e. they not only failed to regain control, but due to valid legal threats against them, they backed off and lost ground in confirming that they could not legally take control.

Millions of barcodes ‘in the wind’:

By this point the UCC had already issued millions of barcodes, and the class action effectively resulted in millions of barcodes remaining globally unregulated and legally traded beyond GS1 control.

It is this type of barcodes that we, Barcodes Malawi – member of the International Barcodes Network are trading in.