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HQ 952718

February 3, 1993

CLA-2 CO:R:C:M 952718 RFA


TARIFF NO.: 8541.40.20

District Director of Customs
909 First Avenue
Rm 2039
Seattle, WA 98174

RE: Protest No. 3001-92-100315; Back light; Light-Emitting Diodes; LED; HQ 088495; 8531.90.00

Dear District Director:

The following is our decision regarding the Protest and Request for Further Review No. 3001-92-100315, dated March 27, 1992. The protest was filed against your liquidation of the entry of certain merchandise which was classified in subheading 8531.90.00, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS).


The merchandise, Back Light Model No. L316, measures 2 5/8 inches in length by 1 1/4 inches in height and a thickness of 1/8 inch. It is covered in a white plastic housing and has a diffuser panel. There are four Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) under the diffuser panel, two on each side of the housing. There are two electrical leads extending from behind the housing.

The Back Light is designed to give uniform diffusion of light. Its slim design allows it to be placed between a base plate and a Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) in order to illuminate an LCD screen.

The importer maintains that the merchandise should be classified as an LED under subheading 8541.40.20, HTSUS, because it is a light emitting source.


Is the Back Light classifiable as an LED under the HTSUS? LAW AND ANALYSIS:

Classification of merchandise under the HTSUS is in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's), taken in order. GRI 1 provides that classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes.

Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia, 7th Edition (1989), defines the operation of LEDs:

Recombination or injection electroluminescence was first observed in 1923 by Lossew, who found that when point electrodes were placed on certain silicon carbide crystals and current passed through them, light was often emitted. Explanation of this emission has been possible only with the development of semiconductor theory. If minority charge carriers are injected into a semiconductor, i.e., electrons are injected into p- type material or "positive holes" into n-type material, they recombine spontaneously with the majority carriers existing in the material. If some of these recombinations result in the emission of radiation, electroluminescence results.

Subheading 8541.40.20, HTSUS, provides for: "[d]iodes, transistors and similar semiconductor devices;. . .light-emitting diodes; . . . : . . . light-emitting diodes: Light-emitting diodes (LED's)."

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (EN) constitute the Customs Cooperation Council's official interpretation of the HTSUS. While not legally binding, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the HTSUS and are generally indicative of the proper interpretation of these headings. EN 85.41, page 1399, states

Light emitting diodes, or electroluminescent diodes, (based, inter alia, on gallium arsenide or gallium phosphide) are devices which convert electric energy into visible, infra-red or ultra-violet rays. They are used, e.g., for displaying or transmitting data in control systems. (emphasis in original)

The Back Light is an LED because it is a device which converts electric energy into visible rays which are used for displaying. At the time of entry, you held that the merchandise was a part for an indicator panel, classifiable under subheading 8531.90.00, HTSUS. This classification apparently is based upon the fact that the article included a housing.

In HQ 088495 (April 12, 1991), we held that the common and commercial meaning of an LED includes completed LED "devices" such as LEDs in plastic or metal housings. The Back Light is made up of four LEDs held together in a housing in order to evenly illuminate a display panel such as an LCD. Based upon HQ 088495, we find that the Back Light is classifiable as an LED, and the presence or absence of a housing is not determinative of classification.


The submitted merchandise is classifiable under subheading 8541.40.20, HTSUS, which provides for: "[d]iodes, transistors and similar semiconductor devices;. . .light-emitting diodes;. . .: . . .light-emitting diodes: Light-emitting diodes (LED's)". The column 1, general rate of duty is 2 percent ad valorem.

The protest should be granted in full. A copy of this decision 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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