Regulations for a UPC Barcode

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The first bar code was invented in 1974.
The first bar code was invented in 1974. (Image: bar code iii image by Hao Wang from Fotolia.com)

UPC bar code regulations are in place to create standards for printed pricing materials across the country and throughout the world. Codes such as this are administered by GS1, formerly the Uniform Product Code Council, an independent organization that oversees UPC standards for member businesses both domestically and abroad. Other industries like publishing have additional requirements for UPC codes that are overseen by the U.S. ISBN Agency.

UPC Size Regulations

According to GS1, a non-profit global organization that governs the distribution and creation of UPC codes and bar codes, codes are required to be no smaller than 1.02 inches by 1.5 inches. A bar code may be reduced in size by 80 percent or magnified by 200 percent. Additionally, a quarter inch of white space must be printed around the bar code to ensure that it can be read correctly. Truncation of the bar code may be no more than half an inch.

Product Bar Codes

An identification number is necessary for GS1 to create bar codes for your company. This six or seven digit code is then paired with a product-specific six digit code. Each UPC code must be specific for the product. For example, if your business sells a product available in 12-packs and 24-packs, a UPC code is needed for each product line. Membership with GS1 is required to attain UPC codes.

Additionally, if your business sells books or other print publications, you are required to have an International Standard Serial Number or International Standard Book Number as part of your product-specific UPC code. The agency responsible for assigning these numbers in the United States is Bowker/Martindale-Hubbell. This company has been designated by the U.S. ISBN Agency to issue these numbers.

Color Regulations

UPC codes are required to be printed in black ink on an all white background. Independent businesses are free to create UPC codes in whatever color is pleasing to them, however certain colors such as red cannot be read by UPC scanners. Errors such as this could cost a business hundreds to thousands of dollars in extra printing costs and lost revenue.

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