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HQ 952345


CLA-2:CO:R:C:M 952345 JAS


TARIFF NO.: 9010.20.60

Thomas J. O'Donnell, Esq.
Sonnenberg, Anderson, O'Donnell & Rodriguez 200 South Wacker Drive
Chicago, ILL 60606

RE: Step-and-Repeat Machine; Machine for Composing and Printing Plates; Printing Plate Imaging Machine, Subheading 8442.10.00; Machine for Producing Images on Light-Sensitive Plates, Photographic Apparatus, Heading 9010; Section XVI, Note 1(m); HQ 953047 (I.A. 75/92), HQ 950665 Reconsidered

Dear Mr. O'Donnell:

In your letter of July 28, 1992, on behalf of Strobbe, Inc., you ask for reconsideration of our response to Internal Advice 42/91, contained in HQ 950665, dated January 10, 1992. This decision related to the classification of step-and-repeat machines designated the Labelstepper and Formstepper Autoload 125 and 400, imported by your client through the port of Chicago. Additional discussions at a meeting held in our office on December 2, 1992, were summarized in a later submission, dated January 25, 1993.


You have omitted any factual discussion of the machines in issue because, as you indicate on p. 2 of your July 28 submission, these machines were described in detail in the IA request that became HQ 950665. For this reason, the factual discussion in HQ 950665 is incorporated by reference in this decision.

The provisions under consideration are as follows:

8442.10.00 Phototypesetting and composing machines ...Free

9010.20.10 Other apparatus and equipment for photographic laboratories: Contact printers...2.2 percent

9010.20.60 Other apparatus and equipment for photographic laboratories:
Other...3.7 percent


Whether step-and-repeat machines, as described, are apparatus and equipment of heading 9010.


Merchandise is classifiable under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). GRI 1 states in part that for legal purposes, classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes, and provided the headings or notes do not require otherwise, according to GRIs 2 through 6.

The Harmonized Commodity Description And Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) constitute the Customs Cooperation Council's official interpretation of the Harmonized System. While not legally binding on the contracting parties, and therefore not dispositive, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the Harmonized System and are thus useful in ascertaining the classification of merchandise under the System. Customs believes the notes should always be consulted. See T.D. 89-80.

Your arguments are briefly summarized as follows: (1) machines that utilize the photographic process are included in heading 8442; (2) the machines in issue are provided for eo nomine in heading 8442 because they actually compose images and/or text rather than just transfer it to printing plates; (3) the principal function of step-and-repeat machines is appropriate to goods of heading 8442; (4) relevant Explanatory Notes indicate that machines of heading 8442 utilize the photographic process and specifically include phototypesetting and composing machines; (5) Customs has ruled that substantially similar machines utilizing the photographic process are classifiable in heading 8442; (6) step-and-repeat machines are not principally used in photographic laboratories; and, (7) these machines were classified under the TSUS as phototypesetting and composing machines. - 3 -

The majority of your arguments are in support of the heading 8442 classification. However, articles of chapter 90 are precluded from classification in chapter 84. See Section XVI, Note 1(m), HTSUS. Therefore, if the step-and-repeat machines in issue are apparatus and equipment of heading 9010, or are goods of any other heading in chapter 90, it is clear they cannot be classified in heading 8442. For this reason, we will touch only briefly on the arguments in support of the heading 8442 classification, with greater emphasis on the heading 9010 issue.

The courts have sanctioned the Explanatory Notes as useful guides to understanding and interpreting provisions of the HTSUS. We do not agree that the notes support classification of these machines in heading 8442. Relevant ENs on heading 8442 state, at p. 1237, "The heading covers only phototype-setting or composing machines which actually set type even if the type is photographed after it has been set (Emphasis original). The notes continue by stating the heading excludes photographic contact printers and similar photographic apparatus for preparing printing plates or cylinders. The notes refer these goods to chapter 90. Step-and- repeat machines do not set or compose type as indicated in the notes. The type has already been composed on the transparencies before they reach the step-and-repeat machines. These machines prepare printing plates in a manner described in the notes by arranging film transparencies in the desired order and utilizing a photographic process to transfer the film's images to the plates.

The heading 8442 classification notwithstanding, the real issue is whether these machines are encompassed by heading 9010 or any other provision in chapter 90. Heading 9010 is clearly a provision governed by "use." You state that these machines have no "photographic" capability, that is, they do not project, enlarge or reduce images from a negative, and that exposure of the printing plate is made by an ultraviolet light source. No darkroom or safelight conditions are required. For this reason, you conclude that step-and-repeats belong to a class or kind of machine principally used in the printing industry and not in photographic laboratories.

Initially, heading 9010 is broader in scope than you contend. The heading encompasses, among other things, apparatus for the projection of circuit patterns on sensitized semiconductor materials. This is specialized apparatus unique to the semiconductor industry and is not of a kind commonly found in a "photographic' laboratory; rather, it is apparatus that utilizes or is based on photographic principles. Where tariff terms are not defined in the statute, the common and commercial meaning of those terms shall prevail unless a contrary legislative intent is indicated. We are aware of no lexicographic authority that defines the expression "photographic laboratory." In HQ 088649 and HQ 083123, dated May 28, 1991, and - 4 -

December 18, 1989, respectively, Customs ruled that in common meaning the terms "photography" and "laboratory" are broad and liberal.

Where words have both a broad and a narrow common meaning, or the meaning is otherwise in dispute, it is proper to refer to the legislative history, administrative practice, sections related to those in which the terms appear, and other extrinsic aids. F.W. Myers, Inc. v. United States, 12 CIT 566, Slip Op. 88-78 (1988), and related cases. The heading 9010 ENs are not helpful in resolving the issue. However, in different tariff provisions where it appears, the term "photographic" has been given a similarly broad interpretation. HQ 088649 and HQ 950301, dated March 10, 1992.

We are satisfied that there is sufficient basis to regard step-and-repeat machines as belonging to a class or kind of apparatus principally used in "photographic laboratories," as that term is understood for tariff purposes. HQ 953047, dated November 9, 1993 (I.A. 75/92) is in accord. This decision held that substantially similar step-and-repeat machines were not goods of heading 8442, but were apparatus and equipment for photographic laboratories of subheading 9010.20.60.


Under the authority of GRI 1, the Strobbe step-and-repeat machines designated the Labelstepper and Formstepper Autoload 125 and 400 are provided for in heading 9010.

There is some indication that step-and-repeat machines function like or are akin to platemaking apparatus which perform a contact printing function appropriate to goods of subheading 9010.20.10. This is because both utilize a vacuum and light source in which the vacuum exhausts the air pressure under the plate to insure positive contact with the frame. This form of imaging is believed to be simply a form of contact printing, the only major difference being that platemakers image only once while step-and-repeat machines repeat the imaging. We can only conclude that the evidence of record is not sufficient at this time to permit a proper assessment of this argument. For this reason, the Strobbe step-and-repeat machines in issue will continue to be classified in subheading 9010.20.60, HTSUS, as other apparatus and equipment for photographic laboratories. - 5 -


The principles of I.A. 42/91, expressed in HQ 950665, dated January 10, 1992, are affirmed.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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