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HQ 950665

JANUARY 10, 1992

CLA-2:CO:R:C:M 950665 JAS


TARIFF NO.: 9010.20.60

District Director of Customs
610 South Canal Street
Chicago, Illinois 60607

RE: Step-and-Repeat Machine; Photomechanical Platemaking Machine; Machine for Producing Multiple Images on Printing Plates; I.A. 42/91

Dear Sir:

Your memorandum of July 2, 1991 (MAN-1-02-CO:CH/CT 309 JJ), to the Regional Commissioner, New York, forwarded this request for internal advice initiated by counsel for Strobbe, Inc., Elk Grove Village, Ill. Our decision follows.


The machines in issue here are the Labelstepper and Formstepper Autoload 125 and 400. These are automatic and unidirectional step-and-repeat machines for making image carrying printing plates by the photomechanical method. The plates are later developed and used in printing presses.

Step-and-repeat machines of this type enable one image to be repeated numerous times on a light-sensitive plate so that its entire capacity can be utilized. These machines utilize a microprocessor to horizontally and vertically move or "step" single or multiple negatives produced by a photographic camera to different areas on the same plate and then repeat the exposure. The transparencies make contact with the plate at each new location by vacuum and are exposed to light. Business forms, coupons, labels and tags, etc. are mass-produced using this method.

Counsel argues that in fact these machines photomechanically set or compose text, photographs or artwork onto sensitized - 2 -
printing plates. They are also said to have the secondary function of producing larger intermediate negatives from a master negative. They have no lenses, prisms, mirrors or other optical elements. Counsel maintains that the duty-free provision for phototypesetting and composing machines, in subheading 8442.10.00, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), represents the correct classification.

You regard these machines as photographic cameras of heading 9006.


Whether these machines, or any of them, are classifiable in chapter 90; if not, whether they are machines for typesetting or for preparing or making printing plates of heading 8442.


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.

Initially, articles of chapter 90 are not covered by section XVI (which includes heading 8442). Section XVI, Note 1(m), HTSUS. Therefore, if the machines in issue are provided for in heading 9006, or in any other provision of chapter 90, any discussion of heading 8442 would be moot.

Relevant ENs at p. 1237 indicate that heading 8442 excludes photographic cameras, photographic enlargers or reducers, photographic contact printers and similar photographic apparatus for preparing printing plates or cylinders (Emphasis added). The notes refer this merchandise to chapter 90. - 3 -

Cameras for composing or preparing printing plates by photographic means are among those classifiable in heading 9006. However, the machines in issue contain no lenses or other optical elements that are characteristic of photographic cameras. In fact, the negatives these machines "step" are separately produced by photographic cameras. These machines are not photographic cameras of heading 9006.

As to whether the machines in issue may be photographic apparatus within the cited ENs, in the absence of contrary legislative intent, tariff terms are construed in accordance with their common and commercial meanings which are presumed to be the same. Various dictionaries agree that the term photography means "The art or process of producing images on sensitized surfaces by the action of light or more generally, of any form of radiant energy." The common meaning of a tariff term is always a matter of law. After reviewing numerous lexicographic sources and previous court cases, the Customs Court in St. Regis Paper Co., v. United States, 11 CIT 601 (1987), adopted the same broad definition in connection with its deliberations on the meaning of the provision in item 252.05, Tariff Schedules of the United States (TSUS), basic paper to be sensitized for use in photography. Finally, in a different context, the word "photographic" is defined for purposes of photographic or cinematographic goods of HTS chapter 37 as "relating 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 are satisfied from this discussion that the step-and-repeat machines in issue here, which image printing plates as described, perform a photographic function for tariff purposes. In so concluding, we note that there is no indication that these machines utilize a contact type photocopying or thermocopying process as required for classification in heading 9009.

We have ruled previously that because the term laboratory is broadly defined, heading 9010 is not restricted to photographic apparatus and equipment used in a particular place. See ruling 083123, dated December 18, 1989.

The machines in issue here are apparatus and equipment for photographic laboratories of heading 9010. This precludes classification of the machines in heading 8442.


Under GRI 1, the Strobbe step-and-repeat machines, designated the Labelstepper and Formstepper Autoload 125 and - 4 -

400, are provided for in heading 9010. They are classifiable in subheading 9010.20.60, HTSUS, other apparatus and equipment for photographic laboratories.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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