“Do I have to join GS1 to get barcodes?”

May 31, 2012

If you need to get barcodes for your products you do not have to join GS1, you can choose to get your barcodes from a barcode reseller company (such as Barcodes Limited) instead.

Barcodes Limited legally owns a large block of GS1-origin barcode numbers, and is able to on-sell them to its customers for a one-off price (without charging GS1′s annual ‘membership’ fees).

GS1 isn’t overly happy about the existence of barcode reseller companies (because barcode reseller’s challenge GS1′s monopoly on barcodes). However, GS1 generally acknowledges that the practice of reselling barcodes (and using re-sold barcodes) is completely legal.

If you want to order a barcode from Barcodes Limited, please click on one of the following links(depending on your location): UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, India, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Africa, USA/World.

WHY IS IT LEGAL TO RESELL BARCODES?

Because of a court case in the US around 2002, there are a certain number of GS1-system barcode numbers that are no longer under the control of GS1 or subject to GS1′s membership fees.  What happened is this:

When UCC (now known as GS1-US) started charging membership fees to companies that were using it’s barcode numbers, some manufacturers refused to pay & took UCC to court. These manufacturers argued that they had never agreed to pay membership fees to UCC. The case was settled out of court, with UCC agreeing to pay these manufacturers a settlement of almost $4 million. Under the terms of the settlement, all manufacturers that had paid a membership fee to UCC prior to August 28, 2002, were entitled to free perpetual membership of UCC.

Some of these manufacturers had large blocks of un-needed (and un-used) barcode numbers. They decided to on-sell these barcode numbers to barcode reseller companies. Barcodes Limited now has ownership of a large block of these barcode numbers, and therefore can legally on-sell them to its customers.

Note: There are some barcode reseller companies around that are selling their barcodes illegally (they are selling numbers that are not covered by the 2002 settlement, and that therefore still belong to GS1 & are still subject to on-going membership fees). If you do decide to purchase barcodes from a reseller company (instead of GS1), make sure that you check that it is a legitimate barcode reseller. George J Laurer (the inventor of the UPC barcode) has a list of “authenticated barcode resellers” on his website, and Barcodes Limited is one of them.

MIS-INFORMATION ABOUT BARCODE RESELLERS:

It is completely legal to purchase your barcodes from a legitimate barcode reseller company, however there is a LOT of mis-information around! Below are some examples of the things you might get told if you purchase from a legitimate barcode reseller company:

“Your barcode number is unauthorized” or “Your barcode will work and there’s nothing actually illegal about it, but it’s not authorised in terms of the correct use of the GS1 System”

OUR RESPONSE: Presumably these statements mean that only barcodes purchased directly from GS1 are “authorized” by GS1 (which mean absolutely nothing). George J Laurer (the inventor of the UPC code) states on his website: “Agents of GS1 US have been making many defamatory and maligning statements concerning resellers such as saying that they are scams, that they are breaking the law, that they are illegal, that NO retailer will accept reseller’s prefixes, etc. These are all false and should be ignored…. GS1 US also claims to be the only one “authorized” to issue numbers. If this were true I would like to know who authorized them.”

“Because your barcode is no longer subject to the disciplines and controls of the GS1 System its uniqueness cannot be guaranteed and the danger exists that some other product may be in the market with the same identification on it.”

OUR RESPONSE: This is not true. Legitimate barcode reseller companies (such as Barcodes Limited) sell barcode numbers that have come from the GS1 System. Therefore, they can guarantee that the barcode numbers they sell are unique worldwide. There is no danger that some other product exists on the market that is legally using the same barcode number.

“Your barcode number is not a legitimate number for use in retail”

OUR RESPONSE: This is not true. Legitimate means “conforming to the law or to rules”. Authenticated barcode reseller companies (such as Barcodes Limited) are selling their barcode numbers legally. Therefore any barcodes purchased from their company are legitimate and legal for retail use.

“Barcode reselling can be compared to pirated copies of a DVD, except that there are specific laws against DVD piracy “

OUR RESPONSE: This is an unjustified, ridiculous statement. DVD piracy and barcode reselling are not comparable. DVD piracy is illegal. Barcode reselling is legal (if the barcodes being re-sold are covered by the 2002 Court settlement).

“Barcode reselling is a breach of the GS1 licence agreement.”

Some people have been told the following: “Barcode reselling is a breach of the GS1 licence agreement. Under the licence agreement that GS1 members enter by joining GS1 a company may not sell off its numbers, allow them to be used on any other company’s products, or use any other company’s numbers on its own products.  Some of the companies that bought blocks of numbers sold off parts of the blocks they had bought, and eventually various companies ended up with some of them, which they are now selling to customers such as you. There is nothing GS1 US can do against the original owner of the numbers since that company no longer exists. ”

OUR RESPONSE: This is misleading information. Barcode reselling is not a “breach” of the GS1 license agreement if it involves barcodes covered by the 2002 court settlement (the manufacturers involved in the settlement never agreed contractually to not on-sell their barcode numbers). The reason why GS1 US can do nothing again the original owner of the numbers is not because “those companies no longer exist”, it is because the original owners of the barcode numbers were acting legally when they on-sold some of their numbers (they had the legal right to on-sell their numbers).

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