The Definitive Answer on GTIN vs UPC, EAN, and ISBN

If you’re not familiar with a GTIN (Global Trade Item Number), you might wonder, how does a GTIN vs UPC compare? A GTIN is a product identifier code, embedded within a UPC barcode, that is required in order to sell items in-stores or on an e-commerce platform, like Amazon.

Additionally, these product identification numbers not only help you manage inventory, but also ensure that your product is unique. Efficiently labeling and organizing products with the correct identifier helps retailers avoid data conflict, catalog mix-ups, and more.

In this blog, we’ll go over the difference between a GTIN vs UPC, what a GTIN is made up of, and how to purchase them. Additionally, because we often have clients ask questions about how an FNSKU, we’ll explain how these data structures tie into a bar code.

Differences Between GTIN vs UPC, EAN, ISBN

GTIN stands for Global Trade Item Number. More specifically, GTIN is the series of numbers associated with a barcode. GTIN codes are part of larger global data structures that help identify a company’s unique product.

Technically, there is no difference between a GTIN vs UPC because they are one and the same. Likewise, UPC, EAN, and ISBN are all GTINs. That’s because a GTIN is the number encoded into either a UPC, EAN, or ISBN barcode.

There are three types of GTINs: GTIN-12 (UPC), GTIN-13 (EAN), and an ISBN. Although each serves different purposes, each GTIN type is a part of the GS1 System of International Standards, so they are all recognized globally.

GTIN-12 & UPC Code

A 12-digit UPC, which stands for universal product code, is a GTIN that is embedded into a barcode. A UPC number is a part of the data structures used in the United States and Canada.

The first 6 to 9 digits of a UPC code are called a Company Prefix, which remains constant on any UPC number owned. The next set of numbers following that are the product numbers assigned to a unique item chosen by the purchaser. The last digit in the UPC is called a check digit, which is a calculation based on the 11 digits before it.

If you have a universal product code or UPC, you do not need to get an EAN because they work the same way. If you encounter a form that requires a 13-digit number, simply adding a zero in front of the 12 digit number will suffice.


An EAN, which stands for European Article Number, is a 13-digit GTIN is used globally, except in the United States and Canada.

Like a GTIN-12 or UPC, an EAN is a 13-digit number attached to barcodes.


An ISBN, which stands for international standard book number, is usually between 10-13 digits long and is embedded into a barcode. Unlike a UPC or EAN, an ISBN identifies a unique book or book-like product. And, as the name suggests, it can be used to reference a title at an international level.

To get an ISBN, you’ll have to get it through the UABN (Universal Agency for Book Number or one of the 160 ISBN agencies around the world, such as

How to Purchase A GTIN

Unfortunately, you can’t just make up any old combination of numbers to create a UPC, EAN, or ISBN bar code. However, the good news is that it doesn’t take long to register your company and receive GTIN numbers. All you’ll need to do is visit GS1 US or UK to get a company prefix.

You’ll want to be sure you’re purchasing a global trade item number, GTIN, from a reputable source. Our experts suggest purchasing product identifier numbers straight from GS1 to ensure you don’t receive inactive GTINs. If you don’t, it could stall the process of listing inventory on retailers.

To get UPC bar code numbers from GS1 US, you’ll first want to estimate how many UPC barcodes you’ll need before you fill out your application. After that, you can figure out pricing and fill out your application.

Submitting an application for a Company Prefix will require this information:

  • Legal Company Name (DBA required if operating a Sole Proprietorship)
  • Primary Contact Information (person filling out the form)
  • Decide how many individual items you need to identify
  • Payment Information

After submitting your application, you’ll receive an email from GS1 with a prefix certificate and access to the online GS1 US member center.

How Much A GS1 Membership Costs

The initial fee for purchasing GTINs for your product line depends on how many you’ll need to apply, referred to as Prefix Capacity.

Business owners can purchase as few as 10 UPC barcodes to as many as 100,000 UPC barcodes.

Prefix Pricing for New GS1 Members for gtin vs upc blog

The initial fee you pay will cover your prefix and barcodes for one year, so you’ll need to renew your membership each year to maintain valid bar code numbers. As long as your membership is current, you can use GS1’s special tools for barcode management.

Renewal Fees for GS1

GTIN’s are licensed to you on an annual basis, meaning you’ll have to renew your license to use it every year if you want to keep barcodes valid. The amount you pay for an annual renewal fee depends on the number of GTINs you have.

Annual Renewal Fee for GS1 Members for gtin vs upc blog

What’s the Difference Between A GTIN vs. FNSKU?

FNSKU is shorthand for the Fulfillment Network Stock Keeping Unit, which is generated when you create a product listing. An FNSKU needs to be visibly labeled on your product when you ship items to a fulfillment center.

Just like a GTIN, an FNSKU is a unique set of numbers that connects to a specific bar code for a product.

If you’re just starting to sell your products on Amazon, you’ll probably only need an FNSKU visible on your product labels if you’re a third-party seller or distributor selling the same items as others. For example, a reusable Starbucks cup.

FNSKUs are often necessary when selling on Amazon because ASINs (a specific product) may be sold by different sellers and/or have multiple SKUs. When an item such as a Starbucks cup is sold by multiple “additional sellers” an FNSKU is what identifies both the product and the seller to Amazon’s staff.

This way, if an item sold by you and other sellers is determined as counterfeit, or otherwise unsellable, Amazon can determine which seller is at fault.

If you already have a branded item that no one else sells on Amazon, an FNSKU is not necessary as you can just label your items with the UPC or EAN codes.

The Takeaway

GTIN bar code numbers, such as a UPC or EAN, are essential data structures that help business owners and corporations all over the world maintain and manage their catalogs.

The key message here is that you don’t have to think too hard about GTIN vs UPC vs EAN, as they are interchangeable for the most part.

Now that you’ve mastered all things GTIN, you can get focused on selling! If you’re thinking of taking advantage of Amazon as a sales platform, check out our beginner blog on how to sell on Amazon.

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