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HQ 964969

January 4, 2002

CLA-2 RR: CR: GC 964969 TPB


TARIFF NO.: 8479.90.95; 8543.90

Juliana M. Cofrancesco
Howery, Simon, Arnold & White
1299 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C., 20004-2402

RE: Sputtering Targets

Dear Ms. Cofrancesco:

This is in response to a letter dated March 19, 2001,on behalf of Hitachi Metals America, Ltd. (“HMA”) to the Director, Customs National Commodity Specialist Division, New York, requesting a ruling as to the tariff classification of sputtering targets used in sputter coating systems, under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (“HTSUS”). The letter was referred to this office for reply. Although the letter originally requested a prospective ruling on the merchandise, it has come to our attention that since that original request, the subject merchandise has been entered at San Francisco as well as various other ports. As there are now actual entries at issue, a copy of the ruling is being issued to the Port Director of Customs at San Francisco and at Chicago in order to assure consistent treatment.


Sputtering is a process used to coat extremely thin, uniform layers of materials onto various substrates. It is commonly used to coat glass with optical coatings, to coat semiconductor wafers with metal circuitry, and to place hard coatings onto tool edges to minimize wear. The sputtering target, which is composed of the material to be deposited on the substrate, is placed in a vacuum chamber within the sputtering machine. A beam of charged atoms or electrons bombards the target, knocking off atoms or molecules of the target material.

These sputtered atoms or molecules are electrically attracted to the substrate, where they form a thin, even film on the substrate’s surface. Over the course of time the material on the target will be dissipated, necessitating periodic replacement.


Are the sputtering targets properly classified as “parts” of a sputtering machine, or by their component material?


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.

Customs has previously held that sputtering targets are classifiable based on the material which give the target its essential character (see NY 856164, dated September 27, 1990; NY 878388, dated September 28, 1992; and NY C86790, dated April 21, 1998). While acknowledging their use in a sputtering machine, it was the opinion of Customs that these targets were not sputtering machine parts, but rather a material consumed during the operation of the machine, analogous to the paint in a paint gun.

In Mita Copystar America v. United States, 160 F.3d. 710 (Fed. Cir. 1998), the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (“CAFC”) ruled that certain toner cartridges which were designed for use with specific Mita photocopiers were classifiable as “parts” for those photocopier machines, in accordance with Note 2(b) of Chapter 90. The court considered the following characteristics in reaching its conclusion:

The cartridges are sold with the toner inside; they remain with the toner throughout its use by the photocopier; they are the standard device for providing toner to the photocopier; and they are not designed for reuse.

The CAFC also noted the similarities that these toner cartridges bear to butane fuel cartridges for cigarette lighters, which the Customs Court had previously held to be parts of cigarette lighters. Additionally, the CAFC noted that toner cartridges play an essential role in the functioning of the photocopy machines in which they are used, and are distinguishable from the material upon which the photocopy machines operate.

It is the opinion of Customs that while sputtering targets are not directly analogous to toner cartridges, since the target material is not contained within a cartridge, such targets do play an essential role in the functioning of sputtering machines and are not the material upon which sputtering machines operate (that would be the substrate which becomes coated with the sputtered material). Thus the fact that the sputtering target is, like the toner in the toner cartridge, consumed during the operation of the machine in which it is used does not prevent it from being considered a part of the sputtering machine.

Note 2 to Section XVI, HTSUS, states, in pertinent part as follows:

Parts of machinesare to be classified according to the following rules:

(a) Parts which are goods included in any of the headings of chapter 84 and 85are in all cases to be classified in their respective headings;

Other parts, if suitable for use solely or principally with a particular kind of machine, or with a number of machines of the same heading (including a machine of heading 8479) are to be classified with the machines of that kind

Customs has previously indicated that the language of Note 2 to Section XVI is substantively the same as Note 2(b) to Chapter 90, cited in Mita. See HQ 962650, dated October 4, 1999. As you indicated, the sputtering targets are specifically designed to fit specific sputtering systems, and would thus be classifiable as “parts” of the sputtering machines with which they are solely used. Sputtering machines used in the semiconductor industry for coating wafers are currently classifiable under subheading 8479.89.8578, HTSUS, which provides for machines and mechanical appliances having individual functions, not specified or included elsewhere (in Chapter 84): other machines and mechanical appliances: other: other: machines for processing of semiconductor materials; machines for production and assembly of diodes, transistors, and similar semiconductor devices and electronic integrated circuits: physical deposition apparatus including sputtering and E-beam apparatus (see, for example, Ruling letters HQ 960562, dated October 23, 1997 and NY D81539, dated September 8, 1998). Other sputtering machines are classifiable under subheading 8479.89.9797, HTSUS, which provides for machines and mechanical appliances having individual functions, not specified or included elsewhere (in Chapter 84): other machines and mechanical appliances: other: other: other: other (see HQ 960554, dated August 17, 1998). As the sputtering targets are not goods included in any other heading of Chapter 84 or Chapter 85, HTSUS, they are classifiable in subheading 8479.90.95, HTSUS, pursuant to Note 2(b) to Section XVI, HTSUS.

As of January 1, 2002, sputtering machines are classified in heading 8479, HTSUS. As a consequence of a World Customs Organization (“WCO”) decision (see Annex H/11 to Doc. 42.100 E and Annex K/22 to Doc. 42.750), the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States has been modified so that sputtering machines imported into the United States, from that date on, are classified in subheading 8543.89, HTSUS, and parts of such machines are classified in subheading 8543.90, HTSUS.


For the reasons stated above, sputtering targets entered prior to January 1, 2002, are to be classified under subheading 8479.90.95, HTSUS, as: machines and mechanical appliances having individual functions, not specified or included elsewhere in this chapter; parts thereof: parts: other. Pursuant to the WCO action and subsequent change to the HTS, sputtering targets entered after January 1, 2002, will be classified under subheading 8543.90, HTSUS, as parts of sputtering machines.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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