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HQ 088536

September 4, 1991

CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 088536 KWM


TARIFF NO.: 4016.99.50; 8512.90.90; 9905.00.00

Mr. Nicholas R. Devine
Assistant District Director
United States Customs Service
Patrick V. McNamara Building
477 Michigan Avenue
Detroit, Michigan 48266

RE: Application for Further Review of Protest No. 3805-0-000026 and 3801-0-002594; Wiper blades; Windshield wiper blades; Parts of windshield wipers; Parts and accessories of motor vehicles; articles of rubber; vulcanized and hard rubber.

Dear Mr. Devine:

This protest was filed in response to your decision in the liquidation of various entries of windshield wiper blades. The goods were imported from Canada through the port of Detroit, Michigan. Our decision follows.


Two articles are at issue here. They are described as "windshield wiper blades" and "windshield wiper refills." Each is part of an automobile windshield wiper. The windshield wiper blade has two components: a rubber squeegee and a frame which holds the squeegee. This protest is concerned with both the "refill" (the rubber squeegee) and the "blade" (wiper frame with squeegee).

The windshield wiper blade consists of a long frame made of (in this case) plastic. Along one edge of the frame is attached a narrow rubber squeegee (the "refill"). The refill is removable, facilitating replacement when the rubber becomes brittle through time and use. The plastic frame is specially constructed so that the rubber strip is held firmly and with constant tension against the windshield surface. The rubber squeegee forces water across and off the surface of the glass as the motor propels the entire blade assembly back and forth across the windshield.

The imported blades may be sold either as original equipment on motor vehicles, or in the aftermarket as replacement parts. The sample received in this office was packaged for retail sale as an aftermarket part. The refills are sold primarily for replacing original rubber which has deteriorated. The refills have a thin plastic spine which aids in their insertion into the frame.

The goods were originally entered under heading 8512 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUSA). However, that heading was deemed inapplicable, and the port of entry classified the goods under subheading 4016.99.50, HTSUSA, in accord with Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 083970. As products of Canada included in subheading 9905.00.00 (HTSUSA), the rate of duty for the merchandise was 4.2 percent ad valorem in 1989, and 3.2 percent ad valorem in 1990. The protestant asserts that the merchandise should be classified under heading 8708, HTSUSA, as parts of motor vehicles.


Are the windshield wiper blade refills classified as articles of vulcanized rubber, as parts of windshield wipers or as parts of motor vehicles?

Are the windshield wiper blades classified as articles of vulcanized rubber, as parts of windshield wipers or as parts of motor vehicles?


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.

Exclusion from Section XVI and XVII, HTSUSA


The protest documents suggest that Section XVI heading 8512, HTSUSA, was considered ineligible for classification for this merchandise. That consideration was based on Legal Note 1(a) to Section XVI, HTSUSA, which excludes from the headings of that section "articles of a kind used in machinery or mechanical or electrical apparatus or for other technical uses, of vulcanized rubber other than hard rubber (heading 4016)." In excluding the merchandise from Section XVI (and subsequently from heading 8512, HTSUSA), the implication is that the blades and refills are considered to be "article[s] of rubber"; i.e., that the rubber component determines classification. As detailed below, we do not believe that the Section XVI, HTSUSA, exclusion is applicable to all of the merchandise at issue.


A similar exclusion exists for goods of Section XVII, HTSUSA. Legal Note 2(a) to Section XVII, HTSUSA, provides:

2. The expressions "parts" and "parts and accessories" do not apply to the following articles, whether or not they are identifiable as for the goods of this section:

(a) Joints, washers, or the like of any material (classified according to their constituent material or in heading 8484) or other articles of vulcanized rubber other than hard rubber (heading 4016);

(Emphasis added). Therefore, if the implication that these are articles of rubber proves correct, they will be excluded from the headings of Section XVII, HTSUSA as parts of motor vehicles. In support of their assertion that the goods may be classified in Section XVII heading 8708, HTSUSA, the importer states:

There is no Note in Section XVII or Chapter 87 which precludes classification of vulcanized rubber products within HTSUS 8708.99.5090 [parts and accessories of motor vehicles].

We do not agree with that assertion, noting the express language of the above legal note which provides just such a preclusion.

Prior Customs Rulings

Customs has addressed the classification of what appear to be similar articles on two prior occasions, in Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 083970 and New York Ruling Letter (NYRL) 826598. It has been suggested that these prior rulings may be in conflict. We do not believe this to be the case. Keeping in mind that two distinct but related articles are at issue in this case, we consider below the holdings of our previous rulings.

"Refills" and HRL 083970

HRL 083970 classified merchandise referred to as a "double edge windshield wiper blade." It is described as "an article approximately 18 inches long and consisting of a double edge rubber wiper blade portion attached at the top to a plastic spine or frame with steel retainer clip on one end. After importation, the article will function as the blade portion of an automotive windshield wiper." The articles classified in that case are essentially identical to the "refills" at issue here. HRL 083970 held that the character of the merchandise was imparted by the vulcanized rubber component, thus excluding them from classification in Section XVI (or XVII), HTSUSA (as described above). The merchandise in HRL 083970 was classified in heading 4016, HTSUSA. The refills at issue here should be similarly classified. As we stated in HRL 083970:

[T]he wiper blade is designed to clean automotive windshields. In our opinion, it is the rubber portion therefore that performs the wiping function. The rubber portion imparts the essential character to the wiper blade.

That analysis is true here as well. As between the rubber strip component and the plastic spine component of the refills, it is the rubber which is essential to the functioning of the refill in the cleaning of automotive windshields.

"Blades" and NYRL 826598

NYRL 826598 reached a result different from that of HRL 083970 for merchandise described simply as "windshield wiper blade[s]." NYRL 826598 did not exclude the goods from classification in Section XVII, HTSUSA, as articles subject to Legal Note 2(a). Without a more detailed description or a sample of the goods at issue, we will not "second-guess" the findings of that ruling letter. However, after examining the goods at issue in the present case, we do not believe that HRL 083970 (above) and NYRL 826598 are necessarily in conflict. NYRL 826598 may well have classified goods the character of which was not imparted by a vulcanized rubber component.

In this case, the items described as "wiper blades" differ significantly from the "refills" classified in heading 4016, HTSUSA. Even at first glance it is obvious that the full blade assembly contains a much larger amount of plastic and several interrelated components, only one of which is the rubber "refill" strip. The classification of the refill was premised on the functional role of the rubber in cleaning the windshield. In the case of the blade assembly, that constituent role is reduced. The plastic framework serves to hold the rubber squeegee against the windshield. The various components work as a sort of spring, providing a constant wiping tension. In addition, the rigid frame acts to transfer the action of the motor and move the entire assembly back and forth across the windshield. We find that, in the case of the "wiper blade", the character is not that of the vulcanized rubber. Therefore, we conclude that the "blade" is not excluded from Section XVI or XVII, HTSUSA.

Note 2(b) to Section XVI, HTSUSA, provides that parts of machines if suitable for use solely or principally with a number of machines of the same heading are to be classified with machines of that kind. In section XVI, heading 8512 provides for:

Electrical lighting or signaling equipment (excluding articles of heading 8539), windshield wipers, defrosters and demisters, of a kind used for cycles or motor vehicles; parts thereof:

(Emphasis added). We find that heading 8512, HTSUSA, provides for the wiper blades.


The protest should be denied with respect to that portion which protests the classification of wiper blade refills consisting of a rubber strip/squeegee combined with a narrow plastic backing in subheading 4016.99.50, HTSUSA.

The protest should be allowed in part with respect to that portion which protests the classification of wiper blades in subheading 4016.99.50, HTSUSA. Those goods described as wiper blades consisting of a rubber strip squeegee with a plastic backing combined with a plastic and/or metal frame for holding the rubber firm against the windshield, are classified as parts of windshield wipers in subheading 8512.90.90, HTSUSA.

Articles that meet the definition of "goods originating in the territory of Canada" (see General Note 3(c)(vii)(B), HTSUSA) are subject to reduced rates of duty under the United States-Canada Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act of 1988. If the merchandise constitutes "goods originating in the territory of Canada," it will be eligible for reduced rates of duty under subheading 9905.00.00, HTSUSA.

A copy of this decision should be attached to the CF 19 notice of action to be returned to the protestant, in fulfillment of the notice requirement of Section 174.30(a) of the Customs Regulations.


John A. Durant
Commercial Rulings Division

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