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HQ 957018

March 27, 1995

CLA-2 CO:R:C:M 957018 DWS


TARIFF NO.: 8473.30.10

Mr. Stephen S. Spraitzar
Law Offices of George R. Tuttle
Three Embarcadero Center, Suite 1160
San Francisco, CA 94111

RE: Embedded Systems CPU Boards; OpenBoot Program; EPROM Chip; BIOS; The Computer Glossary; Chapter 84, Note 5(A)(a); GRI 2(a); HQs 950221 and 951443; NYs 851540, 874448, and 869571

Dear Mr. Spraitzar:

This is in response to your letter of September 9, 1994, on behalf of Force Computers, Inc., concerning the classification of certain embedded systems central processing unit (CPU) boards under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). We regret the delay in responding.


The merchandise consists of embedded systems CPU boards (part nos. CPU-2CE, CPU-3CE, CPU-5CE, and CPU-10/6E). The boards do not contain the erasable programmable read only memory (EPROM) chip. The missing EPROM chip contains the OpenBoot program which, for the purposes of embedded systems, takes the place of the basic input output system (BIOS). The EPROM chip containing the OpenBoot program will be added to the boards after importation into the U.S.

The embedded systems segment of the computer industry refers to users, who, due to their highly specialized needs, are not able to use off-the-shelf software and ready-made hardware. Unlike personal computer users, these users must develop their own in-house software programs and buy CPU boards (motherboards), input/output boards, etc., to construct a computer to run their specially configured software.

A user will purchase the subject boards and, after adding the EPROM chip with the OpenBoot program, will install them and other boards into a computer card cage, which is analogous to a metal suitcase with slots.

As stated, the OpenBoot program takes the place of the BIOS, which is used in personal computers, and performs the same functions as the BIOS. The program provides a set of routines which contain the detailed instructions form activating the peripheral devices connected to the computer; contains an auto start program for testing memory upon startup and preparing the computer for operation; and includes the "bootstrap loader" which contains sufficient instructions to start the loading of the operating system.

Although the boards are designed to be multi-functional, they are primarily used for the processing of data. The end uses include automatic data processing (ADP), local area network (LAN), telecommunications, medical, and instrument control. You state that the boards are principally used in ADP applications.

The subheading under consideration is as follows:

8473.30.10: [p]arts and accessories (other than covers, carrying cases and the like) suitable for use solely or principally with machines of headings 8469 to 8472: [p]arts and accessories of the machines of heading 8471: [n]ot incorporating a cathode ray tube: [p]rinted circuit assemblies, other than for power supplies for automatic data processing machines.

Goods classifiable under this provision receive duty-free treatment.


Whether the CPU boards, without their EPROM chip containing the OpenBoot program, impart the essential character of finished ADP units, or are classifiable under subheading 8473.30.10, HTSUS, parts of heading 8471, HTSUS, not incorporating a cathode ray tube.


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

The definitions for "motherboard" and "BIOS ROM" can be found in The Computer Glossary, Fourth Edition. The term "motherboard" is defined as:
the main printed circuit board in an electronic device which contains sockets that accept additional printed circuit boards. In a personal computer, the motherboard contains the bus, the microprocessor and all the chips used for controlling the peripherals that are considered standard with the system, such as the keyboard, text and graphics display, serial and parallel ports and joystick and mouse interfaces.

The term "BIOS ROM" is defined as:
the part of an operating system that contains the machine instructions necessary to activate the peripheral devices. The ROM indicates that it is permanently stored in a read only memory chip.

By definition, then, the motherboard, or, for the purposes of embedded systems, the CPU board, contains all the devices necessary for controlling the peripherals with the system. The BIOS is responsible for activating the peripheral devices. Therefore, the BIOS is essential to the operation of the motherboard.

Chapter 84, note 5(A)(a), HTSUS, states that:

(A) For purposes of heading 8471, the expression "automatic data processing machines" means:

(a) Digital machines, capable of (1) storing the processing program or programs and at least the data immediately necessary for execution of the program; (2) being freely programmed in accordance with the requirements of the user; (3) performing arithmetical computations specified by the user; and, (4) executing, without human intervention, a processing program which requires them to modify their execution, by logical decision during the processing run.

In HQ 950672, dated February 20, 1992, a CPU motherboard with an 80286 microprocessor, two 64k EPROMS, and a direct memory access controller was classified as a finished digital processing unit under heading 8471, HTSUS. In the ruling, it was stated that "[t]he subject CPU board satisfies this description [note 5(A)(a), chapter 84, HTSUS] of an ADP machine. The 80286 microprocessor and EPROMS enable the board to perform these functions."

Unlike the motherboard in HQ 950672, the subject CPU boards do not contain the EPROM chip and the OpenBoot program which functions as the BIOS. Therefore they cannot perform the functions described in note 5(A)(a), chapter 84, HTSUS. The lack of the OpenBoot program prevents the CPU boards from performing input/output functions with the keyboard. Logic and control functions cannot be performed. Also, the processing program cannot be executed without human intervention.

GRI 2(a) provides that:

[a]ny reference in a heading to an article shall be taken to include a reference to that article incomplete or unfinished, provided that, as entered, the incomplete or unfinished article has the essential character of the complete or finished article. It shall also include a reference to that article complete or finished (or falling to be classified as complete or finished by virtue of this rule) entered unassembled or disassembled.

In HQ 950221, dated November 22, 1991, it was held that a motherboard, imported without a CPU unit, did not have the essential character of a finished ADP processing unit. Consequently, under GRI 2(a), because the subject CPU boards do not contain the OpenBoot program, essential to their operation, they do not impart the essential character of finished ADP units. See HQ 951443, dated April 13, 1992; NY 851540, dated April 23, 1990; NY 874448, dated May 19, 1992; and NY 869571, dated December 12, 1991.


The CPU boards are classifiable under subheading 8473.30.10, HTSUS, as parts of heading 8471, HTSUS, not incorporating a cathode ray tube.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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