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HQ 082127

October 16, 1989

CLA-2 CO:R:C:G 082127 AJS


TARIFF NO: 9017.20.80; 8471.92.90.

Mr. William J. Phelan
Donohue and Donohue
3 Landmark Square,
Suite 202
Stamford, Connecticut 06901

RE: Digitizers and mice

Dear Mr. Phelan:

Your letter of January 13, 1989, requesting a tariff classification of Summagraphics digitizers and mice, under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA), has been referred to this office for reply.


Certain computer peripheral input devices are known as digitizers and/or mice. Mice are more specifically a type of digitizer.

Essentially, digitizers are hand-held computer peripheral devices used to move the cursor (the flashing position indicator) on a computer screen and/or select menu items. They may be used (1) to trace, draw or create graphic illustrations on the computer screen to be viewed on the screen, manipulated on the screen and/or subsequently plotted on paper, (2) to select menu items displayed on the computer screen or on a tablet (menu items are simply words or symbols which indicate computer operations that are performed once selected), or (3) to direct the computer (in a manner other than by selection of menu items) to perform certain operations, such as moving text or graphics. This latter operation can be accomplished by pointing to the text or graphic to be moved, "grabbing" it by depressing a button on the digitizer, moving it by moving the digitizer, and releasing it by releasing the button.

Digitizers, including mice, operate by various mechanical, optical, and electrical mechanisms to translate movement of the mouse into digital data (hence the name digitizer). This data is then sent to the computer where it is recognized by the computer program. The program then performs the corresponding function associated with these signals such as moving the cursor on the computer screen in direct proportion to the distance, and in direct relation to the direction, that the mouse is moved on the flat external surface. Digitizers that incorporate certain technologies, such as electromagnetic induction, provide a high degree of accuracy.

One type of mouse is mechanical. A description of the mouse and a discussion of its classification can be found in Ruling letter HQ 083187.

Another type of mouse creates the impulses of light described in Ruling 083187 without the ball mechanism. Instead, light is emitted from the underside of the mouse, is reflected by grid lines on a tablet (on which the mouse must be used), and is detected by sensors also on the underside of the mouse. As with the mechanical mouse, the pulses of light are translated into movement of the cursor on the computer screen. The distance between grid lines on the tablet will determine the amount of accuracy available from this type of mouse. Because of limitations imposed by the process of converting movement into a discrete number of light impulses or electrical connections, and then into digital data, and because of the limited accuracy available with discrete grid lines, mechanical, optical/mechanical and optical mice do not offer a great deal of precision.

The stylus, a type of digitizer not generally referred to as a mouse, is in the shape of a pen. When the user draws or points with the stylus on a tablet, the stylus or tablet sends a signal to the computer. The signal can indicate relative movement of the stylus using technology similar to that of the mouse, or the absolute position of the stylus on the tablet using alternate technologies, the exact type of which can vary greatly.

One method for transmitting the absolute position of a stylus, electrostatic technology, involves the use of an electromagnetic field. According to the material submitted with the request, the coordinates representing the position of the stylus on the tablet are determined by measuring the time required for an electromagnetic wavefront to travel to the stylus across horizontal and vertical axes resembling grid lines on the tablet. The use of precise electronic measurements gives this type of stylus much greater precision than that available with mechanical and mechanical/optical mice, and, depending on the
technology used, greater precision than that available with optical mice. Because it transmits absolute positions, this type of stylus can be lifted from the tablet and placed in a specific location on the tablet which will be immediately recognized by the computer and translated into a corresponding position on the computer screen. Relative positioning digitizers only detect movement on the tablet, and accordingly do not provide the same option. However, use of the buttons allows the user to position the cursor in an exact location on the screen before beginning to draw.

Some of the Summagraphics digitizers utilize electromagnetic induction. Electromagnetic induction operates similarly to the previously mentioned electrostatic technology and is more accurate. In this type of digitizer, the magnetic field is produced by the stylus, rather than the grid lines.

Cursors, another type of digitizer (with a name which is confusingly identical to the name of the flashing position indicator on the computer screen), typically contain a viewing window with a crosshair sight and allow greater precision than the other types of digitizers. The precision available from cursors is provided in part by use of the crosshair sight to precisely trace a drawing for input into the computer. Cursors can operate under any of the numerous technologies under which the stylus operates. The Summagraphics Microgrid II cursors use electromagnetic induction and have an accuracy of 1/100 to 1/200th of an inch, depending on the model.

Your request for a ruling does not indicate which of the types of mice and/or digitizers described above Summagraphics intends to import. The sales literature accompanying your request describes the products listed below.

1. Bit Pad Plus
2. CR Tablet
3. MacTablet
4. Microgrid II
5. SummaMouse
6. SummaSketch


Under which of the following subheadings are the above listed articles in question classified:

(1) 9017.20.80, HTSUSA, covering other drawing, marking-out or mathematical calculating instruments, which subheading includes the statistical suffix 9017.20.8040 covering hand operated input devices which transmit data to computer processors or displays (digitizers);

(2) 9017.10.00, HTSUSA, covering drafting tables and machines, whether or not automatic;

(3) 8473.30.40, HTSUSA, covering parts and accessories of the machines of heading 8471; or

(4) 8471.92.90, HTSUSA, covering other input units, whether or not entered with the rest of the system and whether or not containing storage units in the same housing.


Classification of products under the HTSUSA is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's). GRI 1 provides that classification is determined first in accordance with the terms of the headings of the tariff and any relative section or chapter notes.

Heading 9017, HTSUSA, provides for drawing, marking-out or mathematical calculating instruments. Classification of certain digitizers as drawing instruments within 9017 has been anticipated as evidenced by the inclusion of the statistical suffix 9017.20.8040 which provides for "[h]and operated input devices which transmit position data to computer processors or displays (digitizers)." Thus, since digitizers designed for drawing, drafting and other graphics applications are specifically mentioned under subheading 9017.20.80, they appear to be within the terms of that provision.

Subheading 9017.10.00, HTSUSA, covers drafting tables or machines, whether or not automatic. Explanatory Note A(2) to heading 9017 states that the heading includes drafting machines incorporating automatic data processing machines or working in conjunction with automatic data processing machines. The term "drafting machine" means "a drafting instrument consisting of linked parts that perform the functions of the T square, triangle, linear scale and protractor." Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged, p. 685 (1971). This definition probably refers only to the traditional drafting machine, which is purely mechanical, given the reference to "linked parts", and should be so interpreted for tariff purposes. In addition, the term could otherwise be interpreted to refer to a computerized drafting machine if it performs the functions of the T square, triangle, linear scale and protractor. Nevertheless, these functions are not performed by digitizers, but by the data processor with which they operate. Digitizers are therefore not included in subheading 9017.10.00, HTSUSA.

The inquirer has suggested that digitizers cannot be classified as drawing instruments because they require a computer to create their drawings. The language of 9017.20.80 does not require that the merchandise constituting the drafting instrument be capable of drawing on its own. Drawing sets (which are included in this heading) that are entered without lead or ink are incapable of drawing until filled with lead or ink, but are still drawing sets. Pens entered without ink are still pens. By the same token, digitizers that are drafting instruments do not become something else when separated from the computers upon which they rely to create a drawing.

Only digitizers embodying technology that provides at least a certain degree of accuracy can be considered designed for use as drawing instruments. But not all digitizers that possess this degree of accuracy should be considered drawing instruments. Digitizers using only imprecise technology function as pointers for menu selection and the movement of existing text or graphics and are not designed for use as drawing instruments.

Mechanical mice, mechanical/optical mice and other low resolution digitizers are designed for use as input devices principally with desk-top publishing, word processing programs, accounting spread sheet programs, music programs and game programs, none of which utilize the mouse as a drawing instrument, and they should therefore not be classified under heading 9017.

Another provision under which Summagraphics' products are prima facie classifiable is subheading 8473.30.40, HTSUSA, covering parts and accessories of the machines of heading 8471. The term "accessory" as used in 8473 covers only those articles which are designed to be mounted on the machine; it does not extend to include independent accessory or ancillary machines used in conjunction with other machines. Explanatory Notes to 8473. Digitizers are not mounted on the computer, but are connected by a cord and plug.

Digitizers are not classifiable as parts of data processing machines. Note 2(a) to Section XVI and Additional U.S. Note 2(c) require classification of parts which are goods included in any of the headings of Chapter 84 and 85 (Section Note 2(a)), or anywhere else in the HTSUSA (Additional Note 2(c)), in their respective headings. Accordingly, digitizers must be classified under the provision for units of data processing machines or the provision for drafting and drawing instruments.

Note 5 to Chapter 84 states that machines working in conjunction with an automatic data processing machine and
performing a specific function are classified in the headings appropriate to their respective functions or, failing that, in residual headings. Therefore, those digitizers classifiable as drafting or drawing instruments cannot be classified under headings as units of data processing machines.

Summagraphics suggests that pursuant to Note 5, digitizers presented with a computer must be classified outside of the data processor chapter (Chapter 84), while digitizers presented separately must be classified in the data processor chapter. This suggestion results from an incorrect reading of the Explanatory Notes. The Explanatory Notes to Note 5 of Chapter 84 restate the rule of Note 5, emphasizing that (even when entered with the computer) the machine working in conjunction with the automatic data processing machine shall be classified in the heading appropriate to the function of the machine. The note's failure to mention the obvious--that when presented without a computer, a separate machine has no business being classified with a computer--should not be interpreted as requiring that classification of digitizers performing the specific function of drawing be under heading 9017.

A third provision under which Summagraphics products are prima facie classifiable is subheading 8471.92.90, HTSUSA, which provides for other "[i]nput or output units, whether or not entered with the rest of a system and whether or not containing storage units in the same housing." Explanatory Note (I)(A) of heading 84.71, describes an input unit as a device which receives input data and converts it into signals which can be processed. Those digitizers and mice not designed for use as drawing instruments, and not classifiable elsewhere by virtue of their function or otherwise, are input devices under this subheading. However, those digitizers used as drafting and drawing machines are excluded from heading 8471 by virtue of Chapter Note 5 as mentioned previously regarding subheading 8473.

To determine which digitizers are designed for drawing and which are designed as general input devices, Customs conducted extensive inquiries with various producers. We have determined that while the inability of the mechanical, optical, and mechanical/optical mice to create precise drawings indicates that they are not drafting or drawing instruments, the ability to produce precise coordinate data does not necessarily make a digitizer a drafting or drawing instrument. Recent developments in software applications require precision in non-drawing applications as well as graphics applications. To determine the appropriate classification it is necessary to examine each digitizer carefully to determine the use for which it was designed. Once it is determined that a digitizer utilizes one of
the technologies necessary to create accurate drawings (electromagnetic induction, electrostatic technology, or similar technologies), it must be determined that this precision is not intended to be utilized for non-drawing purposes. Such an intent to use for drawing purposes can be presumed when the digitizer utilizes a crosshair sight or a large tablet.

The material submitted with the ruling request does not indicate the technology incorporated into the Summagraphics SummaMouse. It appears from the submitted literature that the unit does not contain a crosshair sight nor a large tablet. The SummaMouse is therefore apparently not suited for drawing and is probably classified in subheading 8471.92.90, HTSUSA, covering other input units.

The Microgrid II uses a cursor, with crosshair sight, and a tablet ranging in size from 17 inches by 24 inches to 42 inches by 60 inches. The submitted material indicates that the Microgrid II series utilizes either electromagnetic induction or electrostatic technology. While the electrostatic models are not as well suited for drawing as the electromagnetic models are, this factor is not critical to the classification of these models, since the remaining design features clearly indicate that they are designed for use as drawing instruments. For instance, a tablet size of 42 inches by 60 inches is larger than required for uses other than drawing. While it is possible to have a template that contains numerous selection items, thereby requiring a large surface area, beyond a certain size (approximately 17 inches by 22 inches), a large surface area indicates use for drawing. The Microgrid II series also includes a digitizer tablet that is large, tilted and resembles a drafting table. It cannot be disputed that this model is designed for drawing applications and, in fact, cannot reasonably be put to other uses.

The Bit Pad Plus and CR Tablet have active surface areas of 12 inches by 12 inches, utilize electrostatic technology and are available with either a cursor or a stylus. The models imported with a stylus are designed as general input devices since their surface area and the electrostatic technology cannot be said to indicate design for drawing. The models imported with a cursor are designed for drawing, because of the crosshair sight, which provides accuracy in tracing, and the use of electrostatic technology, which, although not as accurate as electromagnetic induction, indicates better accuracy than some other technologies.

The MacTablet utilizes a stylus and electromagnetic induction and has a surface area of 12 inches by 12 inches. None
of these design features clearly indicate design for use as a drawing instrument. Therefore the MacTablet is classified as an input unit.

The SummaSketch has a surface area of 6 inches by 9 inches, 12 inches by 12 inches, or 18 inches by 18 inches, depending on the model. It utilizes electromagnetic induction and is imported with a stylus or cursor. The surface area is too small to indicate, by itself, that the units are designed for use as drawing instruments. But, inasmuch as electromagnetic induction can be used for drawing, those imported with cursors are classified as drawing instruments.


The Microgrid II, the Bit Pad Plus imported with a cursor, the CR Tablet imported with a cursor and the SummaSketch imported with a cursor are classified in subheading 9017.20.8040, HTSUSA, covering other drawing, marking-out or mathematical calculating instruments; hand operated input devices which transmit position data to computer processors or displays (digitizers). The SummaMouse, the MacTablet, the Bit Pad Plus imported without a cursor, the CR Tablet imported without a cursor and the SummaSketch imported without a cursor are classified under subheading 8471.92.90, HTSUSA, which provides for other input units.

Please note that ruling requests seeking the tariff classification of goods are limited to five (5) items.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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