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HQ 950301

March 10, 1992

CLA-2 CO:R:C:F 950301 ALS


TARIFF NO.: 3701.30.0000

District Director of Customs
P. O. Box 20876
Charleston, South Carolina 29413-0876

RE: Request for Further Review of Protest 1601-91-100233, dated July 24, 1991, Concerning Plates Coated With Photosensitive Material Which are Used as a Printing Plates After being Photographically Imaged

Dear Ms. Pollock:

This ruling is on a protest that was filed against your decisions of May 3, 1991, in the liquidation of 25 entries covering the referenced item.


The articles under consideration are plates coated with photosensitive material which are photographically imaged and then used as printing plates. The plates are made of aluminum that has been anodized and grained. They are coated with a mixture of organic oligomers, sensitizers, surfactants, and dyes. The organic oligomers constitute approximately 56.7 percent of the coating. The other compounds in the coating include a Diazo compound. The Diazo compound is a photo-reactive diazide dye which, upon exposure of to U.V. light, forms the image utilized for printing.


Are photosensitive plates used for printing classifiable as printing plates or as photographic plates?


Classification of merchandise under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA) is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's) taken in order. GRI 1 provides that the classification is determined first in accordance with the terms of the heading and any relative section and 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.

The articles under consideration were classified by Customs as photographic plates under subheading 3701.30.0000, HTSUSA. The Customs broker representing the importer believes that the plates should be classified as printing plates under subheading 8442.50.10, HTSUSA. The broker states that in the arts industry photographic plates are generally understood to mean plates coated with silver halide emulsions and not organic solutions such as the plates under consideration. The definitions for photographic plates and emulsion in Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary (1977) are referenced in support of that position as is a definition for emulsion in the Lithographers Manual, sixth edition (1980).

In analyzing the broker's arguments that the subject plates are not photographic plates because they do not contain a silver halide emulsion, we have considered the above referenced sources. We also considered the description of photographic plates contained in the publication Pocket Pal~, A Graphic Production Handbook, Fourteenth Edition - May 1989, referenced by the broker in a narrative statement submitted subsequent to the request for further review. We noted that the definition in the above-referenced dictionary, as supplied by the broker, indicates that a photographic plate is a sheet of material coated with a light- sensitive photographic emulsion. According to the definition contained in that dictionary, as supplied by the broker, the term emulsion especially refers to a suspension of sensitive silver salt or a mixture of silver halides in a viscous medium. The referenced Manual, in one of the 3 definitions it gives for emulsion, indicates that an emulsion is a gelatin or collodion solution holding light-sensitive salts of silver in suspension. We also noted that the Pocket Pal~, as referenced by the broker, indicates that there are 2 types of photographic plates using silver halides.

We noted that silver halide may be considered a usual component of a photographic emulsion. This is confirmed by The - 3 -

American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition (1982), which states that an emulsion is "A light sensitive coating , usually of silver halide,...." However, in referring to the introductory material in the Pocket Pal~ regarding "Photomechanic's", we note that the light sensitive coatings used in the photomechanical process may incorporate other materials such as diazo compounds. We also note, in considering the Explanatory Notes (EN's) to the Harmonized System which represent the view of the tariff classification experts at the international level, that silver halides are the most common emulsions for photographic plates. However, as stated in the General Note to Chapter 37 of the EN's, other materials may be used, e.g., diazonium salts for diazo emulsions. Based on these sources, we have concluded that the emulsion which forms a photosensitive coating need not be composed of silver halide, but may be composed of other materials such as diazo compounds.

In considering the application of the exclusionary sentence at the end of Part A of EN 84.42, we note that while the examples listed therein do not specifically appear to cover the article under consideration, the sentence states that sensitized plates are excluded from Chapter 84 and that they should be placed under heading 3701. We also note that Note 2 to Chapter 37, HTSUSA, states "...the word ~photographic ~ relates to a process which permits the formation of visible images directly or indirectly by the action of light or other forms of radiation on sensitive surfaces." We thus believe it is clear that photosensitive plates need not contain silver halide and that diazo compounds may give photographic plates their sensitivity. We specifically note that the coating of the articles under considering are a mixture of photosensitive diazo compounds, cellulose acetate butyrate plastic and a urethane plastic material which sets upon UV exposure.

In summary, we have concluded that photosensitive plates need not contain silver halide and that such plates, regardless of whether their coating contains such halides or other photosensitive compounds, is classifiable under the provision for photographic plates in Chapter 37, HTSUSA.


Plates coated with a photosensitive material composed of diazo compounds which will be imaged photographically by a printer and then used as a printing plates on a press are - 4 -
classifiable under subheading 3701.30.0000, HTSUSA. Such plates are subject to a general rate of duty of 3.7 per cent ad valorem.

Since the rate of duty under the classification indicated above is the same as the liquidated rate, you are instructed to deny the protest in full. A copy of this ruling should be attached to Customs Form 19 and provided to the protestant as part of the notice of action on the protest.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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