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HQ 088400

March 15, 1991

CLA-2 CO:R:C:G 088400 KWM


TARIFF NO.: 4802; 4806.30; 3920.10

Mr. Roy H. Yahiro
Nissho Iwai American Corporation
Broadway Plaza, Suite 1900
700 South Flower Street
Los Angelos, California 90017-4273

RE: Thermal transfer ribbon; Paper; Tracing paper; polyethylene terephthalate polyester film; ribbon;

Dear Mr. Yahiro:

This is in response to your correspondence dated January 28, 1991, and the request made on your behalf by James J. Boyle & Co. for a binding classification ruling for merchandise described as thermal transfer ribbon.


On August 30, 1990, a request for binding classification was received by our New York office for goods described as "thermal transfer ribbon (TTR)." The merchandise consists of two basic layers: a thin polyester film onto which a color ink is coated, and a base material. You have indicated that the initial importations will have base materials of either paper, tracing paper, or polyethylene terephthalate (PET) polyester film. The two layers are not laminated together, but do adhere to each other. The product will be imported in rolls, and may also be imported in sheet form (possibly z- folded or fan-folded) in the future. The primary ink color will be black. The rolls of TTR are used in thermal printers or plotters. The ink images are transferred to the base material, or substrate, by the application of heat through a thermal printing head. The roll material may then be cut to the desired length and the spent ink film is peeled off and discarded. The substrate contains the final printed image.


Which component provides the essential character of the thermal transfer ribbon?


Classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA) is made in accordance
with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's). The systematic detail of the harmonized system is such that virtually all goods are classified by application of GRI 1, that is, according to the terms of the headings of the tariff schedule and any relevant Section or Chapter Notes. In the event that the goods cannot be classified solely on the basis of GRI 1, and if the headings and legal notes do not otherwise require, the remaining GRI's may be applied, taken in order.

We find no heading which, by its terms, describes the thermal transfer ribbon. Therefore, for tariff purposes, we consider the merchandise to be classifiable as a composite good, composed of two layers: the ink coated polyester and the substrate material. By application of GRI's 2 and 3, the classification of the TTR will be determined by that component which provides the merchandise with its essential character.

The essential character of a product is unique to that product. It may be influenced by several factors, including the relative weight, cost, bulk and the role of the constituent materials. Your letter dated October 10, 1990, provides the following information regarding the relative percentages by weight and value of the materials present here:

Weight Value
Inked film (film only) 7.4% 23%
Ink 4.8% 12%
Paper/PET film tracing paper 87.8% 65%

Although we would consider the percentages of the ink and the film which carries it in the aggregate, together they do not approach the considerable weight and value contribution of the substrate material. And, although we recognize that all three of the materials (paper, PET film and tracing paper) do not contribute precisely the same percentage of weight and value considering their obvious differences, we are nonetheless of the opinion that the role of each is essential to the use of the product which contains it. We must therefore determine the classification of the substrate materials.

No technical information was provided regarding the paper material. However, we believe that it is provided for in heading 4802, HTSUSA, which includes uncoated paper and paperboard, of a kind used for writing, printing or other graphic purposes. Within heading 4802, HTSUSA, subheading classification will depend on the manufacturing process used and the weight or type of paper being used. Without this information, we cannot provide a binding ruling beyond the four-digit heading.

We also note that no technical information was provided regarding the tracing paper. However, we believe that it is provided for in subheading 4806.30.0000, HTSUSA, which includes vegetable parchment, greaseproof papers tracing papers and glassine and other glazed transparent or translucent papers, in rolls or in sheets. As with the paper, above, we cannot provide a binding ruling at this time absent the required technical infomation.

Lastly, the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) polyester
film is classified in subheading 3920.10.0000, HTSUSA, which provides for other plates, sheets, film, foil and strip, of plastics, noncellular and not reinforced, laminated, supported or similarly combined with other materials: or polymers or ethylene. We recognize that the materials here may appear to be "reinforced, laminated supported or similarly combined", but we further note that your letter specifically asserts that the inked film and the PET sheet are not laminated. Further, for the purposes of classifying a composite good by GRI 3, we separate the component materials and consider the character and classification of each individually. After determining which component material establishes the essential character, we classify the entire product based on the criterion that the entire item is composed of that material. That classification is the classification which provides for the material on its own. In this case the PET film, if imported separately would fall under subheading 3920.10.0000, HTSUSA. Therefore, the composite good is also classified in subheading 3920.10.0000, HTSUSA.

We do not believe that heading 4820, HTSUSA provides for these goods. That provision includes "interleaved carbon sets." However, the Explanatory Notes to the HTSUSA, indicate that the heading includes multiple pages of paper held together with a perforated stub and used for typing multiple copies. The instant goods are not of that type, and we do not classify them, eo nomine, in heading 4820, HTSUSA, even though they may be entered in a "fan-fold" or "z-fold" format.


The merchandise described as "TTR/PET film" and composed of a plastics film coated with ink (the "thermal transfer ribbon") and adhered to a base or substrate material is classified in subheading 3920.10, HTSUSA, as sheets or film of plastics, noncellular, and not reinforced, laminated, supported or similarly combined with other materials. The applicable rate of duty is 4.2 percent ad valorem.

No binding classification ruling is provided for either the TTR/paper or TTR/tracing paper merchandise.

You may provide, at any time prior to the importation of this product, further information regarding the paper components of this merchandise, and we will issue a binding classification at that time. Otherwise, you should provide the data to the port of entry at the time of importation to establish the duty rate.


John A. Durant
Commercial Rulings Division

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