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HQ 088724

June 2, 1992

CLA-2 CO:R:C:M 088724 MBR


TARIFF NO.: 8541.40.20

District Director
U.S. Customhouse
1 East Bay St.
Savannah, GA 31401

RE: Protest Nos. 1704-90-000259 and 000260; Toshiba Laser Diode; Light-Emitting Diode; LED; Photodiode

Dear Sir:

This is our response regarding Further Review of Protest Nos. 2704-90-000259 and 000260, which pertain to the classification of "Toshiba Laser Diodes," under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS).


The merchandise at issue is the "Toshiba Laser Diode," combined with a photodiode. These "Laser Diodes" are designed to produce a short visible 670 nanometer ("nm") wavelength coherent light beam (for scanners, measuring equipment, and bar code readers) and, alternatively, an invisible wavelength coherent light beam of more than 780 nm, (for optical information processing such as laser beam printers, fiber optic communications, space communications, medical applications and optical card memory).

The crystal material constituting the visible wavelength laser diode consists of Indium, Gallium, Aluminum and Phosphorous (InGaA1P). The crystal material constituting the invisible wavelength laser diode generally consists of Gallium, Arsenide, Aluminum and Phosphorous (GaAsA1P). These Laser Diodes emit a stable, stimulated, and coherent light beam by virtue of emitted light being concentrated and channeled through opposing, mirrored reflecting surfaces. This electromagnetic field, in turn, is confined at a high energy level to an active layer in a resonant cavity between the P- and N- cladding layers of the crystal material, thereby causing the rate of recombination of holes and electrons to increase and to stimulate further emission and thus much greater output power. A special oxidizing layer above the P- cladding layer insulates the resonant cavity of the crystal to ensure that the electrons are sustained at a high energy level. A single wavelength of light is thereby generated at equal intervals and durations, thus producing its coherent character. Meanwhile, a photosensitive photodiode ("an integral part of the module") monitors and adjusts the input current to attain stable, constant output power.


Whether the Toshiba Laser Diode combined with a Photodiode is properly classifiable within subheading 8541.40.20, HTSUS, which provides for "Light-emitting diodes," or within subheading 8541.40.60, HTSUS, which provides for "Other diodes"?


Classification of merchandise under the HTSUS 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, and provided such headings or notes do not otherwise require, according to the other GRIs.

Heading 8541, HTSUS, provides for "photosensitive semiconductor devices, including photovoltaic cells whether or not assembled in modules or made up into panels; light-emitting diodes ...." Photovoltaic cells are photosensitive semi- conductor devices which convert light directly into electrical energy without the need for an external source of current. Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs), 85.41(B)(2), 1398 (1990). These cells are used for detecting light impulses and in communication systems using fiber optics. EN 85.41(B)(2). Photodiodes are described as a type of photovoltaic cell. EN 85.41(B)(2)(ii). Furthermore, Photodiodes may also be combined with electroluminescent diodes. EN 85.41(B)(iii). The subject Laser Diodes consist of a Photodiode combined with a type of electroluminescent diode (i.e., laser diode). The Photodiode is used to detect light emitted by the laser diode, which is itself used to convert electrical signals into coherent laser light. Accordingly, the subject Laser Diode satisfies the terms of heading 8541, HTSUS.

Subheading 8541.40.20, HTSUS, provides for light-emitting diodes. Laser diodes are described as a type of light-emitting diode. EN 85.41(C), 1399. Laser diodes emit a coherent light beam and are used, e.g. in detecting nuclear particles, in altimetering or in telemetering equipment, in communications systems using fiber optics. EN 85.41(C). The subject Laser Diode consists of a laser diode component which satisfies this description. Therefore, laser diodes, imported separately (i.e., without photodiodes) are classifiable under subheading 8541.40.20, HTSUS.

A review of the development of the present HTSUS provision reveals the following:

1. CCCN: Light-emitting diodes were described in the EN under the category of "similar semiconductor devices" and not as "diodes." At this time laser diodes were in their infancy and were not mentioned in the ENs.

2. CCCN: The 1973 status of the EN, as amended, added the reference to "Laser Diodes" to the ENs description for light-emitting diodes, still under the category of "similar semi-conductor devices."

3. Changes: Nomenclature Committee, in Doc. 22.320, 4-9- 76, considered laser diodes (85.21 v. 90.13) and resolved the issue by adding "light-emitting diodes" to heading 85.21 [to keep laser diodes in 85.21] and by creating in the ENs a new category for light-emitting diodes. These articles were originally described in the ENs under the category of "similar semiconductor devices," not the category for "diodes." This was the birth of the text in its current format.

4. Summary analysis after the 1976 proposal: Light- emitting diodes were added to the heading; the ENs to 85.21 (renumbered 85.30 and finally 85.41) were restructured to provide for a category of articles that fell within "light-emitting;" and this category was apparently understood to include laser diodes. As an example of this "apparent understanding as to the scope of the term "light-emitting diode," we note the EC proposal in Doc. 31.255, 1-18-84, to divide the ENs on light-emitting diodes into two paragraphs (the current form) "because these are two different types of articles." There was no limitation of the term "light- emitting diode" to only one kind of photoemitter diodes.

Therefore, we conclude that the term "light-emitting diode," as used in the HTSUS, is a generic term for what are now referred to as semiconductor photoemitters. Thus, laser diodes are light- emitting (photoemitters) and fall within that term in subheading 8541.40.20, HTSUS.

However, the instant Laser Diode also consists of a photodiode component which does not satisfy this description. Therefore, reference must be made to GRI 3.(b) which states:

Mixtures, composite goods consisting of different materials or made up of different components, and goods put up in sets for retail sale, which cannot be classified by reference to 3(a), shall be classified as if they consisted of the material or component which gives them their essential character, insofar as this criterion is applicable.

It is Customs position that the Laser Diode imparts the essential character of the instant merchandise since the Photodiode is used merely to detect light emitted by the Laser Diode, to ensure that the Laser Diode is functioning properly.

Therefore, since the essential character of the instant Toshiba Laser Diode is determined to be the "Light-emitting diode," it is not classifiable as the protestant claims in subheading 8541.40.60, HTSUS, which provides for "Other diodes."


The Toshiba Laser Diode, combined with a subsidiary Photodiode is properly classifiable within subheading 8541.40.20, HTSUS, which provides for "Light-emitting diodes." The rate of duty is 2% percent ad valorem.

The protest should be denied in full. A copy of this decision should be attached to the Customs Form 19 as part of the Notice of Action, and forwarded to the protestant.


John Durant, Director

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