George Laurer Codice a Barre GTIN EAN UPC

It has been called by many names throughout its history: UPC, EAN, and now GTIN. But it has always been commonly known as the Barcode!

The history of the Barcode

Printed labels on almost every type of packaging, captivating the imagination of young and old alike. Fascinated by the effect they create at supermarket checkouts.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter who was the first to invent the Barcode, the GTIN specifically, and how codes help computers and humans avoid mistakes. We are more concerned with how to apply them. Unfortunately, we discover that some people make them, sell them, or claim to be their authority.

At that point, we have to take a step back and try to understand how they are made and why, sometimes, it can be so challenging to use them.

For those who struggle with applying codes to their products, we would tell them that there is no need to worry. The inventors did everything they could to make things easier!

Those black and white bars may seem mysterious and abstract, but all it takes is a simple “beep” to start dreaming of great sales!

It all began in the United States, among the largest countries in the world in terms of size and population, whose constitution starts with three words, “We the people.” Written in bold, in addition to representing a dimension of population, it also implies the dimension of consumption!

GTIN Code - Indicod Scanner - HistoryWe are in 1787, and as early as 1859, the first “supermarkets” and “self-service” were already making their appearance. Large-scale production, high market demand, and the need to automate cashier operations in supermarkets. Large stores where customers could do their shopping by themselves, with the cashier capable of tallying the bill in a few seconds. IBM, the company operating in the data processing field at the time, found the solution.

It is an intriguing and very interesting story that began in the 1960s when the National Association of Food Chains, an association of supermarkets and grocery stores in the United States, sought a solution to speed up checkout procedures. In reality, some studies began as early as 1949 by Norman Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver. GTIN Code - George J. Laurer - HistoryHowever, it was only in March 1973 that Engineer George Joseph Laurer, who worked at IBM, the American company that produced “data processing” systems before the existence of the first true computers, put his own career at stake and, with the help of his then fifteen-year-old son, essentially invented what is still in use today: the U.P.C. | UPC | Universal Product Code.

The most curious thing is that both IBM and the inventor didn’t even attempt to patent the new system, precisely to not hinder its implementation or discourage its use. An admirable idea that aligns with the current world of sharing, but unfortunately didn’t prevent the introduction of financial rules that effectively hinder more straightforward access to sales systems that use this standard.

GTIN Code - Joice Fruit - HistoryAnd so, in 1974, the first product with a barcode was sold: a pack of “Wrigley’s” fruit-flavored chewing gum in a “Marsh” store in Troy, Ohio (USA), and many companies followed suit. There were so many requests that it became necessary to regulate and coordinate this new sales system, with the maintenance of registers and regulations, initially in the United States and gradually throughout the rest of the world. GTIN Code - UCC - HistoryIt took about 10 years for the establishment of the Uniform Code Council, Inc. or “

UCC,” a non-profit American company based in Delaware (USA) known today as GS1 ( Many companies were authorized by UCC|GS1 to use Barcodes and to utilize the invention to great benefit for commerce in general. But this idyll ended when UCC|GS1 began to demand that registered companies pay membership fees and annual renewal fees. GTIN Code - Class Action - History

UCC|GS1, in violation of usage rules, triggered the reaction of all those companies that were already using the codes for free: a “class-action” worth $3,895,000, millions of dollars!The judgment of December 15, 2003 (Supreme Court of Spokane County, Washington (USA) – Civil Action No. 03-203796-1) not only determined the reimbursement of undue amounts but also decided that prefixes issued before August 28, 2002 would remain under the same original usage conditions, without expiration dates, membership fees, and renewal fees. GTIN Code - GS1 - History

In the meantime, the use of Barcodes spread worldwide, and in 2005, the UCC became GS1, operating based in Brussels, Ixelles (Belgium), and other representative offices worldwide, always through non-profit companies.

In 2005, the Uniform Code Council, Inc., or UCC, became GS1 US.
Under its sponsorship, GS1 US oversees three wholly-owned subsidiaries: EPCglobal US, RosettaNet, and UCCnet. GS1 US manages the United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC) for the United Nations Development Programme. EPCglobal, Inc. is a joint venture of GS1 US and GS1 (formerly EAN International). GS1 US-based solutions include business processes, XML standard, EDI transaction system, and the EAN Barcode Identification Standard. The UCC system is currently used by affiliated companies worldwide. GS1 US is headquartered in Lawrenceville, NJ, USA.

  • 1948


    An idea from a Boy Scout

    Norman Joseph Woodland devises a way, based on Morse code, to automatically capture product information at supermarket checkouts (Supermarket Ad Hoc Committee).

  • 1972

    IBM - George J. Laurer

    The IBM assigns engineer George J. Laurer with the task of developing Barcodes to be used in supermarkets based on Joe Woodland’s idea.



  • 1973


    The first type of Barcode: UPC

    The Universal Product Code (UPC), a 12-digit barcode that is still used today, is introduced by the Uniform Code Council, Inc. (UCC).

  • 1974

    The first product with the Barcode

    In June, inside an American supermarket, a pack of chewing gum becomes the first product with the UPC Barcode to be scanned.



  • 1975


    European Article Numbering

    Europe also adopts a similar and UPC-compatible system by adding a 13th digit for global identification.

  • 1997

    European Article Association

    The European Article Association, later known as the European Article Numbering (EAN), is founded as a non-profit organization based in Brussels to coordinate the standard.



  • 1978



    Indicod (“Istituto Nazionale Per La Diffusione Della Codifica Dei Prodotti”) is established as an association responsible for promoting the adoption of the standard in Italy.

  • 1983

    From supermarket checkouts to logistics

    The use of the standard expands, thanks to the various types of Barcodes, extending from supermarket checkouts to logistics.



  • 1993



    EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) is born, a system created for the exchange of electronic information.

  • 1995

    The barcode in the Italian healthcare system

    The standard reaches the Italian healthcare system through initial experiments.



  • 1996


    Development of automatic identification

    The SC 31, a committee of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), establishes international cooperation on the development and use of automatic identification.

  • 1999

    The electronic label

    The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), through its “Auto-ID Labs,” aims to develop the Electronic Product Code (EPC).



  • 2001



    Indicod launches the “Euritmo” platform to facilitate information exchange between companies through the Internet.

  • 1999

    Class Action

    A legal battle erupts against UCC, now GS1, when it attempts to introduce costs for membership fees, royalties, and limits for prefix holders. This leads to a class-action lawsuit by UCC members against UCC itself.



  • 2003


    The Verdict

    The legal case concludes with a verdict, UCC Settlement Dec 2003 in the state of WA, USA: ‘Active UCC prefix holders prior to August 28, 2002 are exempt from membership fees and renewal fees, retaining their membership with UCC and free to self-produce up to 100,000 codes per prefix.’

  • 2003

    The New Standards

    Further standards emerge: EPCglobal and DataMatrix, the first two-dimensional code. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is introduced, including Gen2, and the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN) is established, based on the Internet.



  • 2004


    The Expansion of GS1

    Indicod and Ecr Italia merge, and between 2004 and 2005, GS1 is launched worldwide.

  • 2007

    The World Customs Organization

    The World Customs Organization (WCO) and GS1 sign a memorandum of understanding to optimize standards in customs.



  • Present days


    From the idea of a former boy scout to the global standard of GS1.

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