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UPC codes

The UPC (Universal Product Code) is the predecessor of the EAN. It was introduced on April 3rd, 1973, and is used in the USA and Canada exclusively. Just like the EAN code, the UPC has a fixed number of digits, a numeric character-set (the numerals 0 to 9 only) and a check number. The input of the check number is optional, but recommended. If you enter the code without a check number, it will be generated and added by the module. To avoid input errors, we recommend you always enter the check number, when available. Thus the module can check if your input was correct. Due to its high information density the UPC is not suitable for all printing methods. In practice this means that if you want to print on an output device with low resolution (like old laser and inkjet printers), you should ensure that you do not fall below an empirically derived minimum size so that the readablility of the codes is retained.


The UPC Version A is the standard version and can be compared with the EAN 13 code but is made up of 12 digits only. It is mainly used in everyday durable and consumer product areas, in a wide range of pharmaceutical packages and sanitary articles. The first digit is the system sign and is coded as follows:

Goods for everyday use and consumption
Domestic labelled goods, e.g. with variable weights
Pharmaceutical and sanitary articles (with variable internal code structures)
Coupons (vouchers for price reductions)

The following five digits describe the code owner who is encoded in a producer number. The next five places take the individual article number of the producer or dealer; the last digit is the check number. A barcode scanner that can decode an EAN 13 will be able to read an UPC A, too, because it is a subset of the EAN code.


UPC E is an eight digit short version of the UPC A code for articles in small packages. With a method of null suppression, certain number series of 12-digit numbers can be represented in a shortened form of 8 digits as well. When decoding, unlike with EAN the suppressed null digits are filled in again. Therefore you will not find short numbers here as in EAN but only short line-symbols, meaning that all UPC numbers have 12 digits.

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Last updated on June 24, 2015

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