Bar Code 101

To get a UPC bar code number for your retail product packaging you first need to become a member of the UCC.

In order to get a UPC bar code prefix (necessary to create a bar code), a supplier (manufacturer, distributor, seller) must first go to the Uniform Code Council, Inc. web Site and fill out the Uniform Code Council, Inc. member application form (or contact the UCC and have the UCC postal mail the form).

The Uniform Code Council (or UCC). is where every U.S. supplier must start in order to get a UPC bar code since the only licensor of the UPC bar code prefix for the U.S. manufacturer or distributor is the UCC (Uniform Code Council).

To get the bar code prefix (in order to create a UPC bar code), a supplier needs to get the UPC bar code prefix. To get the UPC bar code prefix, the supplier must become a member of the Uniform Code Council.

The supplier (or a UPC coordinator employed by the supplier) assigns the unique product number that follows the UPC Company Code prefix assigned by the UCC.

Once the complete UPC bar code number has been created and assigned (using the UPC bar code prefix plus the product identification numbers the supplier assigns), a packaging designer or packaging printer can take the UPC bar code number, enter the UPC bar code number into special software, and generate the UPC bar code symbol artwork automatically.

The designer or printer can then incorporate the UPC bar code symbol graphic onto the retail packaging in the proper format, insuring that the UPC bar code is the right size and format.

In certain cases where the UPC bar code is not available when the retail packaging is printed, a good retail product packaging designer will have left a space for a UPC bar code label to be adhered or printed.

How the Uniform Code Council membership arrangement works:

A supplier wishing to use a UPC bar code becomes a licensee of the Uniform Code Council.
The supplier is not actually buying a UPC barcode number or UPC bar code prefix. Instead, as a supplier, in order to get the UPC bar code prefix, a supplier must become a member of the Uniform Code Council. As part of the membership, the supplier is licensing the UPC bar code prefix number (on an annually renewable basis) from the Uniform Code Council. The actual UPC bar code number prefix (the company prefix) remains the property of the Uniform Code Council.

The supplier must renew annually to continue using the UPC bar code prefix.
According to the UCC agreement at the time of this writing, the UCC may terminate its license for the UPC bar code prefix at any time by notifying the Licensee (UCC member) in writing and refunding the pro rata portion of the applicable, initial, or renewal fee paid by Licensee.

The license for the UPC bar code prefix terminates after one year unless the Licensee renews the license by paying the annual renewal fee to the Uniform Code Council (UCC).

How much is the initial membership fee?
Since it is currently based on $750 plus a charge based on a companies’ existing or projected gross annual revenues, it varies.

The fee is determined by the number of unique products the supplier needs to identify and the company’s gross sales revenue.

The UCC web Site suggests applicants for membership complete the membership application to obtain the membership fee. It goes on to say that, once you have completed the application, you then have the choice to continue with payment at that time or use your user ID and password to continue at a later date.

You will not receive any UPC bar code prefix until you pay the membership fee.

How much is the annual renewal fee?
Currently, a minimum of $150 plus a charge based on the member’s gross annual revenues.

How much do most companies pay?
A supplier’s estimate of the number of products requiring a unique code and a supplier’s estimate of gross annual revenues, or existing annual revenues, (along with other factors asked about in the membership form) determines how much a supplier pays the UCC initially (as well as annually).

The UCC does not make clear (at least in the research this writer did), exactly what the fee schedule is.

When must a supplier pay the initial membership fee?
In order to complete the membership process (online or by mail) and to get your certificate, you will need to pay at least $750 after you answer the form questions and agree to the terms of the UCC membership. This may be by credit card or check.

Here’s an example:
The initial membership fee for a company expecting to identify up to 100 products with a unique bar code is $750 initially and then $150 per year to renew, plus a fee based on annual sales for renewal. To get the $750 rate, a very low gross annual revenue of only $3000 was submitted on the form.

As a supplier’s gross (not net) sales increase, the supplier needs to pay more annually to renew its annual membership and maintain its UPC bar code prefix.

What if a supplier continues to use its UPC Bar Code Prefix after its membership is terminated?
Use of the UPC Bar Code Prefixes after termination is not authorized by the UCC and use of the UPC Bar Code Prefixes shall be considered by the UCC to be an infringement of the UCC’s intellectual property rights, in addition to any rights that may accrue to the UCC by such use. The UCC cautions that, upon termination of the license, the UCC may reissue the UPC Bar Code Prefixes to other parties.

The UCC is licensing the supplier to use the bar code prefix.
The UCC retains ownership of the member’s unique identifying number and allows the member to use it as long as the membership remains paid and in good standing.

Payment is due when the form is submitted.
After you fill out the Uniform Code Council, Inc. form online, (which may take some time), you will need to make payment immediately afterwards to complete the process, or you can print out the information you have entered and mail the form in to the UCC along with payment. You need to make payment to receive the certificate with your bar code prefix that you use to create your product UPC.

Before you begin to fill out the form, you should know how many unique bar code numbers and locations you require, and be able to estimate your annual gross revenue, since these factor into the membership fee and need to be included in your answers on the form.

The membership fee that must be paid to the UCC.
Shortly before the end of your first year, an annual membership renewal fee will be invoiced to your company from the UCC for the continued use of your bar code.

In the ‘start-up’ example above, the annual renewal fee would be $150 (though the renewal fee depends on your gross revenue). Payment of the annual membership renewal fee is required to continue your UCC membership and to continue to use your UPC bar code(s).

The future of the bar code, GTIN, RFID – and more.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the latest in bar code technology and the newly announced RFID, please see the links to articles below.
USA Today on the GTIN and RFID
WorldTradeMagazine on the GTIN and RFID

You also may be interested in knowing more about 2005 Sunrise:
All U.S. and Canadian companies must be capable of scanning and processing EAN-8 and EAN-13 symbols, in addition to 12-digit U.P.C. symbols, at point-of-sale. 2005 Sunrise from the UCC web Site

Typical UCC membership includes (at the time of this writing):

Continued use of your current UCC Company Prefix(es).
Automatic listing of your UCC Company Prefix(es) in the UCC Membership directory, a business resource provided to retailers and distributors.
Free access (with the user ID and password) to the latest bar coding and electronic commerce standards and guidelines through the online UCC Solutions Center® to help you conduct business more efficiently and productively ($1,000 value for non-members).
Unlimited access to supply chain support through the UCC Customer Service team, to address any bar coding or electronic commerce questions.
Free webinars on supply chain solutions.
Up to a 50% discount on UCC products and services including guidelines, standards, books, the annual U Connect Conference®, regional Supply Chain U® seminars, and online
Extensible Mark-up Language (XML) education.
A quarterly newsletter, providing you and your company the latest information, trends and best practices in today’s supply chain standards world.
Eligibility for voting privileges in standards development and maintenance through the Global Standards

Management Process (GSMP) to ensure that the needs of industry are represented.

Under its auspices, the UCC operates three subsidiaries, UCCnet, RosettaNet, and EPCglobal US and it co-manages the global EAN•UCC System with EAN International.

The UCC also manages the United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC®) for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The newly formed EPCglobal, Inc. is a joint venture of the Uniform Code Council and EAN International.

UCC-based solutions, including business processes, XML standards, EDI transaction sets, and the bar code identification standards of the EAN•UCC System are currently used by more than one million member companies worldwide.

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