A commodity barcode comprises a country code, a company code and a code of specific commodities, and is issued by an authorised administrative authority. The competent authority in Taiwan is GS1 Taiwan. In the past, most courts have held that the forgery of a barcode or the use of a forged barcode does not constitute an offence, since consumers do not select commodities on the basis of a barcode.

However, in a 2010 criminal case, the Taipei District Court held that once a commodity barcode has been read through a computer, the nature of the commodity and its manufacturer and country of manufacture can be immediately identified. Therefore, the court ruled that a barcode is equivalent to a trade name. Given that commodity barcodes are symbols which are applied to articles and can serve as proof in business practice or a contract, they are deemed to be quasi-private documents. Thus, in the case before the court, the defendant's request to a third party to forge a barcode and its subsequent use of the barcode is to be considered an act of producing a quasi-private document in the name of another party.

The court also pointed out that it is a widely known fact that a commodity barcode is a symbol of the automated administration of a series of processes for general products, including manufacture, wholesale and sale. Moreover, the defendant was aware that a barcode was used to identify the owner, manufacturer, seller or importer of commodities. As the defendant and the legitimate user of the barcode had no connection, the printing of such a barcode on the defendant's commodities made others misidentify the user of the barcode as the owner, manufacturer, seller or importer of the commodities in question, which affected the administration of the barcode by GS1 Taiwan and other barcode administrative authorities and impaired the legitimate user's management of the commodities in question.

For further information on this topic please contact
Ruey-Sen Tsai at Lee and Li Attorneys at Law by telephone (+886 2 715 3300), fax (+886 2 2718 7099) or email ([email protected]).