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HQ 955510

September 16, 1994

CLA-2 CO:R:C:M 955510 RFA


TARIFF NO.: 8526.91.00

Mr. Joseph S. Kaplan
Ross & Hardies
Park Avenue Tower
65 East 55th Street
New York, NY 10022-3219

RE: Global Positioning System Cards ["GPSCards"]; Navigational Aid System; Satellites; Personal Computer Control or Adapter Units; Section XVI, Legal Note 5; Heading 8471; EN 85.26

Dear Mr. Kaplan:

This is in response to your letter dated June 9, 1993, to the Area Director of Customs in New York, on behalf of NovAtel Communications, Ltd., concerning the tariff classification of the Global Positioning System Cards ("GPSCard") under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). In preparing this ruling, we also considered arguments provided in our meeting on February 15, 1994, and the information provided with your letter of March 9, 1994.


The Global Positioning System [GPS] allows a user to know the exact location of an object on the earth's surface (i.e., a truck, automobile, or ship) using the information provided by the NAVSTAR [NAVigation Satellite Timing And Ranging] satellites. In its final constellation, the system will consist of 21 operational NAVSTAR satellites and 3 active spares to provide the user with a 6 to 10 satellite coverage at all times. A minimum of 4 satellites in view allows the GPSCard to compute its current latitude, longitude, altitude with reference to mean sea level and the system time.

The GPS satellite signal identifies the particular satellite by providing the positioning, timing, ranging data, satellite status and the corrected ephemerides (orbit parameters) of the satellite to the users. The GPS satellite transmits on two L-band frequencies centered on 1575.42 MHz (L1) and 1227.60 MHz (L2). The L1 carrier has a sequence superimposed on the carrier frequency by modulations in the forms of codes: a Precision (P) code; and a Coarse/Acquisition (C/A) code. The GPSCard has the capability to receive the L1 carrier and the C/A code.

The subject merchandise is the Global Positioning System Cards [GPSCard], which is designed for use in a personal computer (PC). The GPSCard is an L1 frequency, Coarse/Acquisition (C/A) code receiver. It uses a personal computer to control the receiver and provide solutions. The data output by the receiver include satellite code and carrier phase data using standard serial interfaces. It is the end-user portion of the GPS.


Is the GPSCard classifiable as radio navigational aid apparatus or as an adapter unit of an automatic data processing machine under the HTSUS?


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.

According to the literature provided, the GPSCard receives radio signals from the satellite system to calculate its current latitude, longitude, altitude with reference to mean sea level and the system time. This information can be used for air, marine, and land navigation, as well as for surveying. Radio navigational apparatus are prima facie classifiable under subheading 8526.91.00, HTSUS, which provides for: "Radar apparatus, radio navigational aid apparatus and radio remote control apparatus: [o]ther: [r]adio navigational aid apparatus . . . "

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. See T.D. 89-80, 54 Fed.Reg. 35127, 35128 (August 23, 1989). EN 85.26(1), page 1375, states as follows:

This heading includes: [r]adio navigational aid equipment (e.g., radio beacons and radio buoys, with fixed or rotating aerials; receivers, including radio compasses equipped with multiple aerials or with a directional frame aerial).

Customs recognizes that the GPSCard is not specifically listed in EN 85.26(1) as an example of radio navigational aid equipment. However, we note that: "[i]t must also be remembered that the tariff statutes were enacted 'not only for the present but also for the future, thereby embracing articles produced by technologies which may not have been employed or know to commerce at the time of the enactment * * *.'" Nec America, Inc. v. United States, 8 CIT 184, 186(1984), citing Corporacion Sublistatica, S.A. v. United States, 1 CIT 120, 126, 511 F.Supp. 805, 809 (1981); See also Davis Turner & Co. v. United States, 45 CCPA 39, 41, C.A.D. 669 (1957). Furthermore, this list is not intended to be exclusive.

Customs finds that the GPSCard is a technological improvement in the area of radio navigational equipment and is therefore classifiable under subheading 8526.91.00, HTSUS. See Simmon Omega, Inc. v. United States, 83 Cust.Ct. 14, C.D. 4815 (1979), and Trans-Atlantic Co. v. United States, 471 F.2d 1397, 60 CCPA 100, C.A.D. 1088 (1973), in which the courts have held that technological advancements and "improvement in the design of an article does not militate against its continuing to be a form of the named articles."

You contend that the GPSCard is classifiable under subheading 8471.99.15, HTSUS, as control or adapter units, because it serves the function of processing external signals, enabling them to be understood by a personal computer. To be classified under heading 8471, HTSUS, the merchandise must meet the requirements of Chapter 84, Legal Note 5, which states in pertinent part:

Heading 8471 does not cover machines incorporating or working in conjunction with an automatic data processing machine and performing a specific function. Such machines are classified in the headings appropriate to their respective functions, or, failing that, in residual headings.

The GPSCard is dedicated to performing the specific function of a radio navigational device. Based upon Chapter 84, Legal Note 5, we find that the subject merchandise is precluded from classification under heading 8471, HTSUS.


The GPSCards are classifiable under subheading 8526.91.00, HTSUS, which provides for: "Radar apparatus, radio navigational aid apparatus and radio remote control apparatus: [o]ther: [r]adio navigational aid apparatus . . . " The general, column one rate of duty is 4.9 percent ad valorem.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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