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HQ 087881

December 14, 1990

CLA-2 CO:R:C:G 087881 ALS


TARIFF NO.: 3921.90.4050

Mr. David A. Sharpe
I.C.S. Customs Service, Inc.
2330 Brickvale Drive
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007

RE: Plastic film impregnated with carbon-resin-wax formulated ink used for image printing which, after importation, is cut into various widths and lengths, a leader film added, and then the film is rolled onto cores of an appropriate size prior to distribution to the customer.

Dear Mr. Sharpe:

This is reference to your letters of July 6, 1990 and August 16, 1990, requesting a tariff classification ruling on the subject product. A sample of the imported product could not be provided because folding, which would have been necessary to furnish the product, would have damaged the coating on the product. You have, therefore, provided a sample of product as it is finished after importation into the United States and in the condition ready for distribution to customers.


The product is a man-made polyester film impregnated with a carbon-resin-wax formulated ink. It measures 900 mm by 12,000 m, as imported. After importation, the film is cut to width and length, a leader film is attached and the film is then rolled onto cores of appropriate sizes prior to distribution to the customer. The film is used as a ribbon on machines for image printing.


What is the tariff classification of the impregnated polyester film?


Classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA) is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's). GRI 1 provides that classification is to be determined in accordance with the terms and headings and any relevant section or chapter notes. If GRI 1 fails to classify the goods, and if the heading and legal notes do not otherwise require, the remaining GRI's are applied, taken in order.

In considering this matter we noted that the film, as imported on master rolls, is not usable for its intended purpose of image printing on a machine. The master rolls of the product, which are 900 mm by 12,000 m, are subsequently cut in both width and length, a leader is attached and the finished product is then rolled on a core of appropriate size for distribution to the customer.

In reviewing the facts in this case, we have considered the application of subheadings 9612.10.9020,3206.49.4000 and 3921.90.4050, HTSUSA. We initially considered the applicability of subheading 9612.10.9020, HTSUSA, which provides for typewriter or similar ribbons, inked or otherwise prepared for giving impressions, whether or not on spools or in cartridges, other, other. We noted that the subheading seemed to cover the product in question and even though, as imported, it is not ready for use, it might be considered an unfinished machine ribbon and covered under the last referenced subheading pursuant to GRI 2. That GRI provides that any reference in a heading to an article shall be taken to include a reference to that article incomplete or unfinished, provided that, as presented, the incomplete or unfinished article has the essential character of the complete or finished article.

We next referred to Explanatory Note 96.12, which covers heading 9612, and represents the official interpretation of the Harmonized System at the international level. That Note specifies that the heading covers ribbons, whether on spools or in cartridges, for typewriters, calculating machines, or for any other machines incorporating a device for printing by means of such ribbons. It also specifies that inked ribbons, etc. are included therein and that the ribbons, while usually of textile material, can be made of plastics or paper.

On the surface, the product, as imported, would seem to meet many of qualities necessary for classification under subheading 9612.10.9020, HTSUSA. We, however, note that the product is imported in sheets measuring 900 mm in width and 12,000 m in length and that it is wound on a 6 inch core. In this state it is not marked in any way to indicate size or quantity and it is neither recognizable as a ribbon nor is it usable as a ribbon. It is only after importation that the product is slit to width and cut to length, a leader film added and the film is transferred to smaller size cores. This is done to meet the requirements of each customer. In addition, the aforementioned explanatory note seems to consider a ribbon as being a product which has at least the width defined, although some of its other qualities may yet to be completed. Accordingly, we believe that the instant product has not reached the point, at the time of importation, where it is identifiable as an unfinished ribbon.

We next considered the fact that the product is composed of both carbon-resin-wax formulated ink and polyester film. Both subheadings 3206.49.4000, which provides for other coloring matter...preparations based on carbon black and subheading 3921.90.4050, which provides for other plates, sheets, film, foil and strip, of plastics, other flexible, other, seem to have some applicability. Since neither subheading specifically covers the product, which is a composite of materials, it is, pursuant to GRI 2(b), to be classified according to the principles of GRI 3. Classification under GRI 3(a) is not possible because the two possible subheading are equally specific. We next considered the classification of the product under GRI 3(b), which calls for classification based on the essential character.

According to the Explanatory Notes, essential character may be determined by the nature of the material or component, its bulk, quantity, weight or value, or by the role of the constituent material in relation to the use of the goods. While it would initially appear that the carbon-resin-wax formulated ink is the primary element of the product and that it should form the basis for classification based on essential character, all objective measuring standards would indicate otherwise. In this regard, we note that the polyester film makes up 55 percent of the volume of the roll, 60 percent of the weight and 90 percent of the cost. We, therefore, do not believe that it is clear as to which element of the product forms the essential character thereof.

Accordingly, classification pursuant to GRI 3(b) was not possible and we turned to GRI 3(c) to classify the product. That GRI provides that when goods cannot be classified by reference to GRI 3(a) or 3(b), they shall be classified under the heading which occurs last in numerical order among those which equally merit consideration. Based thereon, the product would be classified under the provision for plastic sheets and film.


The plastic film impregnated with carbon-resin-wax formulated ink is classifiable under subheading 3921.90.4050, HTSUSA, as other plates, sheets, film, foil and strip, or plastics, other, other, flexible, other. The applicable rate of duty is at the general rate of 4.2 percent ad valorem.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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