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The EAN-13 barcode supports only numeric data and encodes exactly 13 digits. EAN stands for the European Article Numbering system, also called the International Article Number (IAN). It is used primarily for the marking and tracking of retail products. The first two or three digits are a country code which indicates where the manufacturer is registered, followed by 9 or 10 data digits.

As of January 1st, 2005, all retail scanning systems in the United States were required to recognize and process both EAN-13 and UPC-A symbols. Any UPC-A symbol created in the U.S. can be converted into an EAN-13 symbol with the addition of a leading zero. 


EAN-13 barcodes contain seven key elements:

  • A leading quiet zone 10x the width of one narrow bar.
  • The start character, also called a guard pattern.
  • Six symbol characters.
  • The center character, also called the center guard pattern.
  • Six symbol characters with a check digit.
  • The stop character or guard pattern.
  • A trailing quiet zone.

The start, stop, and center guard patterns feature bars that are longer than the symbol encoding bars, effectively creating a notch for human-readable text. The start and stop characters are identical, containing a narrow bar, narrow space, and narrow bar in that order. The center character contains a narrow space, narrow bar, narrow space, narrow bar, and narrow space in that order. EAN-13 also uses four widths for bars and spaces, making it possible to use half the number of bars and spaces required by Interleaved 2 of 5 symbology to represent the same information.

EAN-13 is also called JAN-13. This barcode is the same format as EAN-13 but uses country code 49, which indicates that the company using it is registered in Japan.

Common Use Cases

EAN-13 barcodes are used to identify specific retail products made by specific manufactures from specific countries, and they are commonplace on packaging worldwide.

Box Barcode