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HQ 960284

November 19, 1997

CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 960284 RFA


TARIFF NO.: 8531.80.90

Mr. John Sveum
Tower Group International, Inc.
P.O. Box 269
Sweetgrass, Montana 59484

RE: Electroluminescent (EL) Displays; Flat Panel Displays; Signaling Apparatus; Electrical Machines and Apparatus Having Individual Functions, Not Specified or Included Elsewhere; Principal Use; Headings 8531 and 8543; HQs 959945, 957795, and 960634

Dear Mr. Sveum:

This is in response to your letter dated January 29, 1997, to Customs in New York, on behalf of The Westaim Corporation, concerning the tariff classification of an electroluminescent (EL) display under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS).


The merchandise is the Westaim Quarter VGA Red-Green TDEL Display [hereinafter referred to as "Quarter VGA EL Display"]. The EL display consists of a 320 x 240 pixel configuration display glass, printed circuit boards (PCBs) and integrated circuits, all of which are housed in a bezel. Product literature indicates the following applications for the subject EL display: transportation; military/avionics; medical; test and measurement; etc.


Is the Westaim Quarter VGA EL Display classifiable as signaling apparatus, or as electrical machines and apparatus having individual functions, not specified or included elsewhere, under the HTSUS?


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

In HQ 957795, dated March 3, 1997, we stated that EL displays and liquid crystal displays (LCDs) are of the same class or kind (generally known in the trade industry as flat panel displays), and should receive the same tariff treatment. Customs then stated that EL displays are prima facie classifiable in the following HTSUS headings: 8471, which provides for ADP machines and units thereof; 8531, which provides for electric sound or visual signaling apparatus; and, 8543, which provides for electrical apparatus having functions not elsewhere specified or included.

Customs has held that headings 8471 and 8531, are use provisions subject to Additional U.S. Rule 1(a), HTSUS. See HQ 956870 (July 27, 1995) and HQ 951288 (July 7, 1992). Additional U.S. Rule 1(a), HTSUS, states that: "[a] tariff classification controlled by use (other than actual use) is to be determined in accordance with the use in the United States at, or immediately prior to, the date of importation, of goods of that class or kind to which the imported goods belong, and the controlling use is the principal use." Therefore, unless a principal use for ADP output (heading 8471) or signaling (heading 8531) can be established satisfactorily either by design limitation or other reliable means, EL displays are classified as electrical machines and apparatus not elsewhere specified for in chapter 85 (heading 8543). See HQ 957795; HQ 960634 (June 27, 1997).

In the attached copy of HQ 959945, of this date, Customs determined that the class of Quarter-VGA displays are not of the kind solely or principally used in an ADP system because of there wide usage in a variety of signaling apparatus. Classification is determined based upon the use of the class of goods and not the actual use of the specific imports. Group Italglass U.S.A., Inc. v. United States, 839 F.Supp. 866, 867, 17 CIT 1177, 1177 (1993). Based upon the application of HQ 959945, we find that the subject Quarter VGA EL Display belongs to the class or kind of flat panel displays with a Quarter VGA standard that are classifiable under heading 8531, as signaling apparatus.


The subject Quarter VGA EL Display, is classifiable under subheading 8531.80.90, HTSUS, which provides for: "[e]lectric sound or visual signaling apparatus (for example, bells, sirens, indicator panels, burglar or fire alarms). . .: [o]ther apparatus: [o]ther: [o]ther. . . ." The general, column one rate of duty is 1.9 percent ad valorem.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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