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HQ 960360

DECEMBER 24, 1997

CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 960360 JAS


TARIFF NO.: 6307.90.99

Port Director of Customs
605 W. Fourth Avenue
Anchorage, AK 99501

RE: PRD 3195-95-100193; Cletop Type A Connector Cleaner, Self- Contained Fiber Optic Connector Cleaning Device; Hand-Held Device for Cleaning Contaminants From the Ends of Fiber Optic Connectors; Other Made Up Textile Articles; Heading 8479, Other Machines and Mechanical Appliances; Trans Atlantic Co. v. U.S., HQ 089411, HQ 950065, HQ 952552, HQ 956882; Composite Good, Essential Character, GRI 3(b)

Dear Port Director:

This is our decision on Protest 3195-95-100193, filed against your classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), of a hand-held device for cleaning the ends of fiber optic connectors. The entry under protest was liquidated on January 20, 1995, and this protest timely filed on April 20, 1995. Counsel for protestant made additional factual and legal arguments at a meeting in our office on December 18, 1997, which he confirmed in a submission of the same date.


The merchandise in issue is the Cletop (Type A) connector cleaning device, a product of Japan. Other models of the device operate similarly but are not the subject of this protest. Also called an optical fiber connector cleaner, the device is a hand-held, spring-loaded mechanism of plastic, measuring 5.9 in. x 5.15 in. x 0.4 in. It utilizes a tape or belt of polyester film made up of very thin fibers, on a spool, to clean dirt, dust, grease, and oil from the ends of fiber optic connectors or ferrules. The contaminants are trapped within the fibers of the belt and remain there. In use, the operator inserts and rotates the connector end first into one slot on the device to clean the connector end, then into a second slot to finish-wipe the end. A
thumb-activated metal lever opens shutter doors for the slots and shutter doors for the slots and also advances fresh sections of the belt.

The merchandise was entered under a provision in heading 8479, HTSUS, for other machines and mechanical appliances. The entry was liquidated under a provision in heading 9002, HTSUS, for other optical elements, on the apparent belief that the cleaning device incorporated an optical element. Your office now believes that the actual cleaning of the connector end is done manually and the mechanical features of the device do not actively enhance this function. For this reason, and because the only functional part of the device is the textile belt, you believe heading 6307, HTSUS, other made up textile articles, represents the correct classification.

The provisions under consideration are as follows:

6307 Other made up [textile] articles...:

6307.90 Other:

6307.90.99 Other

8479 Machines and mechanical appliances having individual functions, not specified or included elsewhere in [chapter 84]...:

Other machines and mechanical appliances:

8479.89 Other:

8479.89.90 (now 97) Other

9002 [o]ther optical elements...being parts of or fittings for instruments or apparatus...:

9002.90 Other:

9002.90.90 (now 95) Other


Whether a device for cleaning the ends of fiber optic connectors is a machine or mechanical appliance of heading 8479; whether it is a composite good classifiable according to its essential character.


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.

Citing dictionary definitions and court decisions, counsel maintains that the optic fiber connector cleaner is within the common meaning of the term "machine" for tariff purposes because it is a system of related elements that utilize definite motions and operates in a consistent, definable way. In addition, it has moveable parts and must utilize, apply, or modify force, or be used to transmit motion.

Alternatively, counsel maintains that dictionary definitions establish that the connector cleaner is a "mechanical appliance" for purposes of heading 8479. He analogizes the connector cleaner to the hand-held carton sealing device which HQ 952552, dated October 30, 1992, held to be a mechanical appliance of heading 8479. That device consisted of a spring pressure bar, plastic roller, and metal cutting blade, all within a metal body. The bar held a roll of adhesive tape in place and the plastic roller was used to apply force to the tape as it was applied to tightly seal the flaps of boxes. We do not agree that this case supports counsel's position. In our opinion, the cleaning device under consideration here is functionally different from the carton sealing device in HQ 952552, the mechanical features of which directly facilitated the application of tape to close the box lids, i.e., the work being done.

The direct connection between the mechanical features of a device and the doing of work is further exemplified in HQ 089411, dated June 20, 1991, in which ratchet tie downs were held to be classifiable in subheading 8479.89.90, HTSUS. These articles contained a gear and pawl mechanism which tightened a nylon strap, thus securing a load in place, i.e., the work being done.

In his December 18, 1997, submission, counsel cites HQ 956882, dated October 6, 1994, in which Customs classified overhead exhaust reels used to hold and store hoses for extracting exhaust fumes from welding shops and automotive repair facilities as machines and mechanical appliances in subheading 8479.89.90, HTSUS. We find this case to be factually distinguishable because, unlike the case here, the manual action of operating the device directly precipitated the dispensing and retracting of the hoses, which was the work being done. In addition, certain coiling machines, similar in function to the overhead exhaust reels, were among the devices listed in the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes for heading 84.79.

On a case-by-case basis, decisions under prior nomenclatures should be considered instructive in interpreting the HTSUS, particularly where the previous nomenclature and that of the HTSUS is the same or nearly the same, and no dissimilar interpretation is required by the text of the HTSUS. For this reason, Trans Atlantic Co. v. United States, C.D. 2678, aff'd. C.A.D. 909 (1967), decided under a predecessor nomenclature to the HTSUS, is instructive as to the common meaning of the word machine. In that case, the court considered lock sets consisting of two opposing door knobs and a latch or tongue mechanically interconnected. In an operation said to utilize springs, inclined planes and levers, turning either door knob withdrew the latch from its aperture in the door frame and permitted the door to open. The court rejected the claim that the lock sets were machines for tariff purposes, concluding that they did not make or act on something outside themselves, that is, they did no work in a tariff sense. Also, there was no evidence that the lock sets were commercially bought and sold or regarded in the trade as machines. The court stated that mechanical complexity alone was not sufficient to make the lock sets machines.

Like the merchandise in Trans Atlantic, as well as HQ 952552 and HQ 089411, the fiber optic connector cleaner in issue here has movable parts. However, advancing new lengths of textile cloth is not "work" for tariff purposes as the device does not act on something outside itself. The cleaning of fiber optic connector ends - the work in this case - is not performed by the cleaner. It is performed manually. For this reason, the fiber optic connector cleaner is not a machine or mechanical appliance of heading 8479. Likewise, contrary to counsel's assertion on p. 10 of its memorandum filed in support of this protest, there is no evidence that the subject connector cleaners are marketed and used as "machines" for cleaning optical fiber connectors.

GRI 3(b), HTSUS, in part states that a composite good consisting of different materials or made up of different components shall be classified as if it consists of the material or component which gives the good its essential character. In this case, the connector cleaner consists essentially of the textile fiber cloth in a plastic housing or body. Clearly, it is the cloth that imparts the essential character to the device because it is the component that performs the actual cleaning function. The plastic body is a mere holder and performs no specific function. See HQ 950065, dated December 4, 1991.


Under the authority of GRI 3(b), the Cletop Type A Connector Cleaner is provided for in heading 6307. It is classifiable in subheading 6307.90.99, HTSUS.

The protest should be DENIED. In accordance with Section 3A(11)(b) of Customs Directive 099 3550-065, dated August 4, 1993, Subject: Revised Protest Directive, you should mail this decision, together with the Customs Form 19, to the protestant no later than 60 days from the date of this letter. Any reliquidation of the entry or entries in accordance with the decision must be accomplished prior to mailing the decision. Sixty days from the date of the decision the Office of Regulations and Rulings will take steps to make the decision available to Customs personnel via the Customs Rulings Module in ACS and to the public via the Diskette Subscription Service, the Freedom of Information Act and other public access channels.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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