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HQ 964780

January 31, 2002

CLA-2 RR: CR: GC 964780 TPB


TARIFF NO.: 3926.90.9880

Mr. George R. Tuttle
Three Embarcadero Center, Suite 1160
San Francisco, CA 94111

RE: Photo-Quality Glossy Film; Part; Accessory

Dear Mr. Tuttle:

This is in response to your letter addressed to the National Commodity Specialist Division, New York, dated November 28, 2000, requesting classification of certain photo-quality glossy film under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (“HTSUS”), on behalf of Epson America, Inc. The matter was referred to this office for reply. In reaching this determination, consideration was given to your further submission of November 29, 2001. We regret the delay in responding, however, it was necessary in part by the resolution of a confidentiality issue which you raised.


The Epson photo-quality glossy film (Part S041071) is intended for use with ink-jet printers to prepare photo-quality pictures. The film is made of polyethylene terephthalate (“PET”) which is coated with alumina and polyvinyl alcohol. It measures 130 microns in thickness and weighs 170 grams per square meter. It is sold in a cardboard envelope containing 15 sheets, each measuring 8.3 inches by 11.7 inches.


What is the tariff classification of the Epson photo-quality glossy film?


Classification under the HTSUS is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (“GRIs”). GRI 1 provides that the classification of goods shall be determined according to the terms of the headings of the tariff schedule and any relative Section or Chapter Notes. In the event that the goods cannot be classified solely on the basis of GRI 1, and if the headings and legal notes do not otherwise require, the remaining GRIs may then be applied.

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (“ENs”) constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized System at the international level. While neither legally binding nor dispositive, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the HTSUS and are generally indicative of the proper interpretation of these headings. See T.D. 89-80.

The HTSUS provisions under consideration are as follows:

Other articles of plastics and articles of other materials of headings 3901 to 3914




Parts and accessories (other than covers, carrying cases and the like) suitable for use solely or principally with machines of headings 8469 to 8472:

Parts and accessories of the machines of heading 8471:

8473.30.50 Other

In your letter, you argue that the film is properly classified under subheading 8473.30.5000, HTSUS, as accessory to a unit of an automatic data processing (“ADP”) machine, namely, an ink-jet printer. You cite New York ruling NY C85953, dated April 8, 1998, as an instance where Customs has previously held that specialized printer paper is classified as an “accessory.” You also point out that the “ENs to Section XVI specify (p. 1224) that ‘[i]n general, the goods of this Section [XVI] may be of any material’, without specifying any exceptions in relation to plastic or paper products of this type.”

In HQ 087704, September 27, 1990, this office considered the classification of “accessories” under the HTSUS and stated as follows:

The term “accessory” is not defined in either the tariff schedule or the Explanatory Notes. An accessory is generally an article which is not necessary to enable the goods with which it is used to fulfill their intended function. An accessory must be identifiable as being intended solely or principally for use with a specific article. Accessories are of secondary importance, not essential in and of themselves. They must, however, somehow contribute to the effectiveness of the principal article (e.g., facilitate the use or handling of the principle article, widen the range of its uses, or improve its operation).

The special relationship that this type of product shares with an ink-jet printer has been alluded to in prior court cases. In United States v American Express Co., 29 C.C.P.A., 1941, the court indicated that, “[i]t is true that a completed typewriter cannot perform its intended function without the aid of the material - - typewriter paper - - upon which it is designed to operate, but the typewriter paper does not, for that reason, become a part of the typewriter, it is, on the contrary, a mere material upon which the typewriter is designed to operate.” Id. at 95.

This type of material is also distinguished from the toner or ink used in a printer in Mita Copystar America v. United States, 160 F.3d 710, (1998). The court in that case wrote that, “[u]nlike typewriter paper, copier paper, or photographic film, toner is not ordinarily regarded as the material upon which the photocopy machine operates.”

The ENs to heading 8473 define the accessories of that provision as “interchangeable parts or devices designed to adapt a machine for a particular operation, or to perform a particular service relative to the main function of the machine, or to increase its range of operations.” The printer would function in the identical way whether it is loaded with the glossy film or a plain piece of paper.

For the above listed reasons, the photo-quality glossy film is not considered an “accessory” to a unit of an ADP system. Instead, it is in the class or kind of merchandise known as consumables/media. Although not binding, Epson’s own web-site lists the product in question under this category. Photo quality glossy film is listed under the “Paper and Media” heading of their North American web-site (www.epson.com).

The McGraw –Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, v. 14, 1992, in the article titled “Printing Press” states under the heading “Ink-jet printing” that:

Tiny drops of ink are propelled across a short air gap and are precisely steered or controlled in flight so that they impinge upon a recording surface (a print medium such as paper) in an exactly defined pattern.

Id. 347 at 352.

The McGraw-Hill Multimedia Encyclopedia of Science and Technology defines “printing press” as a machine for the production of printed impressions on paper and other materials.

In Rollerblade, Inc. v. United States, 116 F. Supp. 2d 1247, C.I.T. Slip-Op. 00-104 (2000), the court held that the common meaning of the term “accessory” indicated a direct relationship to the thing accessorized. Id. at 1253. Rollerblade, Inc.’s contention was that their protective gear was used exclusively with and as an accessory to in-line skates. They argued that use of the protective gear increased the safety, comfort and effectiveness of in-line roller skates, and therefore, ought to be classified as an accessory. The court disagreed:
each of the items classified as an “accessory” added in some way to the thing accessorized. In this case, however, the protective gear does not add anything to the skates themselves, but rather improves the in-line skating experience because of an “addition” to the in-line skater in the form of protective gear. The skates themselves continue to function exactly as they would if the skater were not wearing protective gear. Thus, because the primary relation between the protective gear and the skates is not between the gear and the skates themselves, the protective gear cannot be considered an accessory to roller skates.

Id. at 1254-55.

Print medium such as printer paper, transparencies, photo paper, glossy photo paper, etc. come in a wide variety of materials, weights and finishes which make them suitable for specific applications. Because a particular medium is made of specific material and has a special finish, does not mean that it interacts with the printer or changes its functioning anymore than standard paper does. The printer itself will function the same way, regardless of what type of paper is used.

As to NY C85953, to which you cite, that ruling dealt with certain “Game Boy” printer paper that was classified as an accessory of the game machine. The paper is distinguishable from the photo-quality glossy film under consideration in that it was heat sensitive thermal paper with an adhesive backing designed for the production of stickers. The ruling provides that “the paper was specifically modified for Nintendo, and is, to the best of your knowledge, unique for this application.” Also, Note 3 to Chapter 95, which governs the classification of parts and accessories of Chapter 95 (which the Game Boy machine was classified under), is not applicable to the current classification issue. Photo-quality glossy film, however, is a standard print medium and a readily available product from many industry sources. Epson’s packaging for their glossy film indicates that it is “for use with: ink jet printers.” Exhibit 1C. There is no specific requirement that the glossy film be used exclusively in Epson ink jet printers.

It is clear from the foregoing that the print medium is not an accessory of the printer. It is its own class or kind of merchandise. While neither a part nor an accessory, some type of print media is absolutely necessary for the printing process. The medium is not subsidiary or subordinate in importance; it is the substrate upon which the printing is done and becomes part of the finished product. Nor does the type of print media contribute to the effectiveness of the printer. The printer still prints according to its designed specification, no matter what type of media is chosen.

The film is made of PET, coated with alumina and polyvinyl alcohol. If imported in the form of rectangular sheets, classification would be in subheading 3920.62.0000, HTSUS, which provides for other plates, sheets, film, foil and strip, of plastics, noncellular and not reinforced, laminated, supported or similarly combined with other materialsof polyethylene terephthalate.

However, these sheets have diagonal cuts at one corner, to facilitate the alignment of the film in the printer. Legal Note 10 to Chapter 39 directs that the expression “plates, sheets, film, foil and strip” applies only to such products uncut or cut into rectangles, but not further worked. Cutting of the diagonal strip is considered to be a further working which precludes classification as sheet. Therefore, these sheets are classifiable in subheading 3926.90.9880, HTSUS, which provides for other articles of plastics and articles of other materials of headings 3901 to 3914; other, other, other.


For the reasons stated above, the photo-quality glossy film (Part S041071) is to be classified under subheading 3926.90.9880, HTSUS, as: “Other articles of plastics and articles of other materials of headings 3901 to 3914, other, other, other.”


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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