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FILE: CLA-2-S:N:N1: 112 813351

TO: Director, Commercial Rulings Division Office of Regulations & Rulings

FROM: Chief, Machinery Branch
NIS Staff

SUBJECT: Tariff Classification of a Switch Assembly

This office received a ruling request from AT&T Corporation on the classification of various models of what are called "switch assemblies". The submitted samples consist of rubber strips with a number of dome shaped protrusions which are flattened at the top. These strips are used in conjunction with a printed wiring board designed for use in corded telephone sets. When the rubber dome is depressed, a carbonized dot made of conductive rubber within the dome makes contact with the surface of the wiring board. This surface contains gapped electrical circuit paths so that, once the dome is depressed, the carbonized dot in the dome will join two ends of the electrical path on the circuit board and complete the circuit.

The requestor expresses the opinion that the proper classification for these switch assemblies is under subheading 8537.10.9020, which provides for switchgear assemblies and switchboards. In support of this position, NY Binding Ruling 856850, dated October 10, 1990, and PC 873219, dated May 14, 1992, are cited. In each of these instances, similar items were classified under subheading 8537.10, HTS.

In researching this issue, this office has discovered that Headquarters Ruling 089938, dated March 11, 1992, conflicts with the above cited decisions. This Headquarters ruling classified an item described as a "Kilk Key Rubber Switch", and referred to as an elastomer, under subheading 8517.90.30, HTS, which provides for parts of telephone sets. Based on the description, these switches appear almost identical to those covered in the instant ruling request.

We are inclined to agree with classification of these types of switch assemblies as parts of telephone sets. In addition to the classification principles outlined in HQ 089938, a more expansive rationale for excluding these switch assemblies from classification under subheading 8537.10, HTS, is provided in HQ 088964, dated July 23, 1991. This ruling dealt with the classification of membrane switches, which consisted of an assembly of two flexible membrane circuits, adhesive paper spacers, plastic graphics, and, in some cases, molded plastic housings or backplates. The assembled switches are used in AT&T multi line telephone systems. In addition to citing Section XVI, Legal Note 2(a), this ruling provides a synopsis of several court cases dealing with the interpretation of the scope of item 685.90, TSUS, the predecessor provision of heading 8537, HTS.

In particular, the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals, in United States v. General Electric Company, 441 F.2d 1186, 58 CCPA, C.A.D. 1021 (1971), stated that, with respect to item 685.90, TSUS, "a seemingly broad descriptive tariff term is not to be taken as encompassing every article which may literally come within that term but rather only those articles of the type intended by Congress..." Thus, HQ 088964 held that although the membrane switch assemblies may literally be involved with the use of electricity, they were not specifically described within either the text or EN's of heading 8537, but were clearly described as parts of multi line telephone sets.

For the reasons outlined above, we believe that the proper classification for the switch assemblies at issue is under subheading 8517.90.6400, HTS, which provides for other parts for telephonic apparatus. This office also recommends that NY Ruling 856850 and PC 873219 be revoked to the extent that they conflict with HQ 089938.

Should you wish to discuss this matter, please contact National Import Specialist David Curran on (212) 466-5680 or National Import Specialist Mario DiCerbo on (212) 466-5672.

Robert Slomovitz


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