The International Article Number (also known as European Article Number or EAN) is a standard describing a barcode symbology and numbering system used in global trade to identify a specific retail product type, in a specific packaging configuration, from a specific manufacturer. The standard has been subsumed in the Global Trade Item Number standard from the GS1 organization; the same numbers can be referred to as GTINs and can be encoded in other barcode symbologies defined by GS1. EAN barcodes are used worldwide for lookup at retail point of sale, but can also be used as numbers for other purposes such as wholesale ordering or accounting. These barcodes only represent the digits 0–9, unlike some other barcode symbologies which can represent additional characters.
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The most commonly used EAN standard is the thirteen-digit EAN-13, a superset of the original 12-digit Universal Product Code (UPC-A) standard developed in 1970 by George J. Laurer. An EAN-13 number includes a 3-digit GS1 prefix (indicating country of registration or special type of product). A prefix with a first digit of “0” indicates a 12-digit UPC-A code follows. A prefix with first two digits of “45” or “49” indicates a Japanese Article Number (JAN) follows.
The less commonly used 8-digit EAN-8 barcode was introduced for use on small packages, where EAN-13 would be too large. 2-digit EAN-2 and 5-digit EAN-5 are supplemental barcodes, placed on the right-hand side of EAN-13 or UPC. These are generally used for periodicals like magazines or books, to indicate the current year’s issue number; and weighed products like food, to indicate the manufacturer’s suggested retail price.
The 13-digit EAN-13 number consists of four components:
- GS1 prefix – 3 digits
- Manufacturer code – variable length
- Product code – variable length
- Check digit
Further information: List of GS1 country codes
The first three digits of the EAN-13 (GS1 Prefix) usually identify the GS1 Member Organization which the manufacturer has joined (not necessarily where the product is actually made). Note that EAN-13 codes beginning with 0 are actually 12-digit UPC codes with prepended 0 digit. In recent years, more products sold by retailers outside United States and Canada have been using EAN-13 codes beginning with 0, since they were generated by GS1-US.
The 020-029 GS1 Prefixes are worth a special mention. GS1 defines this as being available for retailer internal use (or internal use by other types of business). Some retailers use this for proprietary (own brand or unbranded) products, although many retailers obtain their own manufacturer’s code for their own brands. Other retailers use at least part of this prefix for products which are packaged in store, for example, items weighed and served over a counter for a customer. In these cases, the barcode may encode a price, quantity or weight along with a product identifier – in a retailer defined way. The product identifier may be one assigned by the Produce Electronic Identification Board (PEIB) or may be retailer assigned. Retailers who have historically used UPC barcodes tend to use GS1 prefixes starting with “02” for store-packaged products
The EAN “country code” 978 (and later 979) has been allocated since the 1980s to reserve a Unique Country Code (UCC) prefix for EAN identifiers of published books, regardless of country of origin, so that the EAN space can catalog books by ISBNs rather than maintaining a redundant parallel numbering system. This is informally known as “Bookland“. The prefix 979 with first digit 0 is used for International Standard Music Number (ISMN) and the prefix 977 indicates International Standard Serial Number (ISSN).
The manufacturer code is a unique code assigned to each manufacturer by the numbering authority indicated by the GS1 Prefix. All products produced by a given company will use the same manufacturer code. EAN-13 uses what are called “variable-length manufacturer codes”. Assigning fixed-length 5-digit manufacturer codes, as the UCC has done until recently, means that each manufacturer can have up to 99,999 product codes. Many manufacturers do not have that many products, which means hundreds or even thousands of potential product codes are being wasted on manufacturers that only have a few products. Thus if a potential manufacturer knows that it is only going to produce a few products, EAN-13 may issue it a longer manufacturer code, leaving less space for the product code. This results in more efficient use of the available manufacturer and product codes.
In ISBN and ISSN, this component is used to identify the language in which the publication was issued and managed by a transnational agency covering several countries, or to identify the country where the legal deposits are made by a publisher registered with a national agency, and it is further subdivided any allocating subblocks for publishers; many countries have several prefixes allocated in the ISSN and ISBN registries.
The product code is assigned by the manufacturer. The product code immediately follows manufacturer code. The total length of manufacturer code plus product code should be 9 or 10 digits depending on the length of country code (2-3 digits).
In ISBN, ISMN and ISSN, it uniquely identifies the publication from the same publisher; it should be used and allocated by the registered publisher in order to avoid creating gaps; however it happens that a registered book or serial never gets published and sold.
The check digit is an additional digit, used to verify that a barcode has been scanned correctly. It is computed modulo 10, where the weights in the checksum calculation alternate 3 and 1. In particular, since the weights are relatively prime to 10, the EAN-13 system will detect all single digit errors. It also recognizes 90% of transposition errors (all cases, where the difference between adjacent digits is not 5).
Calculation of checksum digit
The checksum is calculated as sum of products – taking an alternating weight value (3 or 1) times the value of each data digit. The checksum digit is the digit, which must be added to this checksum to get a number divisible by 10 (i.e. the additive inverse of the checksum, modulo 10). See ISBN-13 check digit calculation for a more extensive description and algorithm. The Global Location Number(GLN) also uses the same method.
Position – weight
The weight at a specific position in the EAN code is alternating (3 or 1) in a way, that the final data digit has a weight of 3 (and thus the check digit has a weight of 1).
Numbering the positions from the right (code aligned to the right), the odd data digits are always weight of 3 and the even data digits are always weight of 1, regardless of the length of the code.
Weights for 18-digit SSCC code and GTINs (GTIN-8, GTIN-12, GTIN-13, GTIN-14):
Weights for EAN-13 code:
Weights for EAN-8 code:
- For EAN-13 barcode 400638133393x, where x is the unknown check digit, (Stabilo Point 88 Art. No. 88/57), the check digit calculation is…
|first 12 digits of barcode||4||0||0||6||3||8||1||3||3||3||9||3|
The nearest multiple of 10 that is equal to or higher than the checksum, is 90. Subtract them: 90 – 89 = 1, which is the check digit x of the barcode.
- For EAN-8 barcode 7351353x, where x is the unknown check digit, the check digit calculation is…
|first 7 digits of barcode||7||3||5||1||3||5||3|
The nearest multiple of 10 that is equal to or higher than the checksum, is 70. Subtract them: 70 – 63 = 7, which is the check digit x of the barcode.