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HQ 078115

September 12, 1988

CLA-2 CO:R:C:G 078115 MR


TARIFF NO.: 685.90

District Director of Customs
517 E. Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202

RE: Protest on the classification of programmable controllers

Dear Sir:

This is our decision on Application for Further Review of Protest No. 3701-5-000050, dated July 24, 1985, contesting your classification of certain programmable controllers entered at the port of Milwaukee in 1984 and 1985.


The merchandise is described as computer-based programmable controllers for factory automation and industrial machine applications. The programmable controller systems at issue include what is designated as the SY/MAX Model 100, as well as the Models 300, 500, and 700. The SY/MAX programmable controller systems utilize data processing technologies for performing industrial control functions, and the hardware generally consists of various modules such as special memory units, processor units, and various input and output units.

Classification of the SY/MAX system is sought by the importer under item 676.52, Tariff Schedules of the United States (TSUS) (1985), which provided for "Parts of the foregoing: Other" (i.e., parts of articles enumerated in items 676.10 through 676.30, TSUS). Liquidation of the merchandise was under item 685.90, TSUS, which provides for, inter alia, switchboards and control panels, and parts thereof.


Whether the SY/MAX programmable controllers are classifiable in item 676.52, TSUS, as parts of data processing machines, or in item 685.90, TSUS, which provides for control panels and parts thereof.


The importer/protestant has submitted that classification of SY/MAX programmable controllers as "parts of data processing machines" is proper because of the technology utilized. Moreover, it is stated that a classification of programmable controllers in item 685.90, TSUS, improperly classifies such merchandise as "electrical switches and relays."

In Headquarters Ruling (HQ) 071823 (March 20, 1985), it was determined that the proper classification of the SY/MAX 20, an earlier generation SY/MAX microprocessor-based programmable controller, was in item 685.90, TSUS. This ruling, issued in response to a request for internal advice (IA 6/84), cited HQ 071563 (March 7, 1985), which also concerned a microprocessor- based programmable controller, and determined the proper classification to be in item 685.90, TSUS.

In our view, data processing technologies are merely used as the "means" for the SY/MAX system to properly perform its function. The fact that the programmable controller is microprocessor-based does not remove it from the realm of tariff classification pursuant to its control function, which serves to define the merchandise.

While not dispositive, the Explanatory Notes to the Brussels Tariff Nomenclature provide guidance concerning the term "control panels." Specifically, Section XVI, Chapter 85.19 provides, in pertinent part:

These consist of an assembly of apparatus of the kind referred to above (e.g., switches, fuses and rheostats) on a board, panel, framework, etc. or mounted in a cabinet, desk, etc. They usually also incorporate meters, and sometimes also subsidiary apparatus such as transformers, valves, or voltage regulators or luminous circuit diagrams. They are classified here provided their essential use is for electrical control purposes (i.e., provided that they do not incorporate any substantial proportion of the operating part of the machine or installation controlled).

Thus, we conclude that although the data processing technology presents a certain sophistication to the SY/MAX programmable controllers, it does not contribute to a function
which is inconsistent with their essential use, which is for electrical control purposes. Accordingly, they are properly classifiable in item 685.90, TSUS.

Finally, it is also contended that the ruling pertaining to the SY/MAX 20 is in conflict with an earlier ruling, HQ 073764 (June 20, 1984), which determined certain control equipment was classifiable as "electrical articles, not specially provided for," in item 688.43, TSUS. We note that HQ 073764 did not concern either the SY/MAX merchandise at issue, or the earlier generation SY/MAX 20. More important, it was specifically stated in HQ 073764 that the classification determination was "limited to the named products at issue in their proposed condition as imported," and specifically did not apply to other types of control apparatus.


The SY/MAX programmable controllers are properly classifiable in item 685.90, TSUS, which provides for, inter alia, control panels and parts thereof.

The protest should be denied. A copy of this decision should be attached to the Form 19 Notice of Action to satisfy the notice requirements of section 174.30(a), Customs Regulations.


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