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HQ 965589

SEPTEMBER 17, 2002

CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 965589 JAS


TARIFF NO.: 7211.90.00, 7226.99.00

Port Director
U.S. Customs Service
6747 Engle Road
Middleburg Heights, OH 44130

RE: Doctor Blade Steel in Material Lengths

Dear Port Director:

This is our decision on Protest 4101-01-100237, filed by counsel on behalf of Bohler-Uddeholm Strip Steel, LLC, concerning the classification, under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), of doctor blade steel in material lengths. The entry was liquidated on March 23, 2001, and this protest timely filed on June 21, 2001.


The merchandise at issue, known as doctor blade steel, is identified in commercial invoices as cold-rolled steel strip, either 1, 1.51 or 2 inches wide and 0.008 inches thick, in coils. The steel has rounded edges and a polished surface. Submitted brochures indicate the steel may be ordered in coils or cut-to-length, but the product at issue here is imported in coils. After importation, the steel is cut to specific lengths as required for use as doctor blades in printing machines. The record does not reflect that at importation the coiled material is marked to indicate where it is to be cut.

The merchandise was entered under provisions of heading 8443, HTSUS, as parts of textile printing machinery or as other parts of printing machinery. Because the steel was imported in coiled form, the entry was liquidated as flat-rolled products, either of iron or nonalloy steel or of other alloy steel, in headings 7211 and 7226, HTSUS, respectively.

The HTSUS provisions under consideration are as follows:

7211 Flat-rolled products of iron or non-alloy steel, of a width of less than 600 mm, not clad, plated or coated:

Not further worked than cold-rolled (cold- reduced):

7211.90.00 Other

Flat-rolled products of other alloy steel, of a width of less than 600 mm:

Of silicon-electrical steel:

7226.99.00 Other

Printing Machinery used for printing by means of printing type, blocks, plates, cylinders and other printing components of heading 8442; ink-jet printing machines, other than those of heading 8471; machines for uses ancillary to printing; parts thereof:

8443.90 Parts:

8443.90.10 Of textile printing machinery

8443.90.90 Other


Whether the doctor blade steel is a flat-rolled product for tariff purposes; whether it has assumed the character of parts of printing machinery.


Classification of merchandise under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) is in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI). GRI 1 provides that classification of goods shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes and, provided such headings or notes do not otherwise require, according to the provisions of subsequent GRIs.

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.

Protestant’s counsel makes the following arguments in support of the heading 8443 classification: (1) though the steel is within the relevant Chapter 72 legal note defining flat-rolled products, the fact it has a polished surface means the steel has assumed the character of goods (i.e., doctor blades) of another heading; (2) the doctor blades are manufactured to meet particular industry standards and possess technical properties to meet specific user needs; As imported, the merchandise is ready for use as doctor blades, which are parts principally used with rotogravure and flexographic printing machinery of heading 8443; (3) in terms of specificity, headings 7211 and 7226 are “basket” provisions whereas Additional U.S. Rule 1 (c), HTSUS, states that only a specific provision prevails over a parts provision; (4) at least two court cases support the claimed parts classification, and finally (5) several administrative rulings classify substantially similar merchandise under appropriate parts provisions.

A doctor blade is a thin, flexible blade or scraper which is pressed against a rotating cylinder to lift the paper sheet off the surface of the cylinder and keep the cylinder free of dirt, pulp or other contaminating materials. Doctor blades are used in all sections of papermaking and paperboard-making machines, as well as in off-machine applications such as coaters and supercalendars. They are designed and fabricated so as to be compatible with a specific machine or machine section and the operating requirements of the intended application.

Concerning counsel’s first two arguments, headings 7211 and 7226 are in Section XV, HTSUS. In accordance with Note 1 (f), the section does not cover articles of section XVI (machinery, mechanical appliances and electrical goods). Chapter 72, Note 1 (k) in part defines flat-rolled products as including those with patterns in relief derived directly from rolling (for example, grooves, ribs, checkers, tears, buttons, lozenges), and those which have been perforated, corrugated or polished, provided that they do not thereby assume the character of articles or products of other headings (Emphasis added). On p. 2 of its June 20, 2001, submission in support of this Protest and Application for Further Review, counsel asserts that, by virtue of having been polished, the doctor blade material has assumed the character of parts of printing machinery of heading 8443. Counsel indicates that the product has “endured a special finishing technique and bright or blue polished surface finish as part of the doctor blade production process.” However, counsel has failed to explain the significance of the polished surface and the manner in which it establishes the character of the steel as doctor blades.

Because numerous “parts” vs “materials” cases exist, each appearing to announce a rule of law that best fits the particular merchandise at issue, the courts favor a case-by-case approach. Heraeus-Amersil v. United States, 640 F. Supp. 1331 (1986), addressed the classification of merchandise - contact tape composed of gold, silver and palladium imported in continuous lengths for use in making individual contacts for telephone relays - that is comparable to the merchandise at issue here. Notwithstanding it is a case decided under the HTSUS predecessor tariff code, the Tariff Schedules of the United States (TSUS), the rule of decision in Heraeus is that importations of small articles manufactured together in one piece should be classified as if already cut apart. The Court stated that “where such [small articles] are imported in the piece and nothing remains to be done except to cut them apart, they shall be treated for dut[y] purposes as if already cut apart and assessed according to their individual character or identity. This follows, however, only in case the character or identity of the individual articles is fixed with certainty and in case the woven piece in its entirety is not commercially capable of any other use.” It is unclear whether the single commercial use criteria is satisfied in this case. There is no compelling argument that the material is specially designed for use in printing machinery. Moreover, the edges of the product are rounded, a design feature that does not appear compatible with a doctor blade. More significantly, the first part of the Heraeus rule isn’t satisfied here because of noncompliance with the “fixed with certainty” criteria. Individual doctor blades are not identifiable in the coiled material, that is, there are no markings on the steel to indicate where individual blades are to be cut.

Counsel’s third argument is not persuasive for two reasons. First, as previously stated, there is a lack of proof that the doctor blade steel has assumed the character of “parts” of heading 8443. Second, the claim that headings 7211 and 7226 are “basket” or residual, rather than specific provisions for purposes of Additional U.S. Rule 1(c), HTSUS, is difficult to sustain because at the 4-digit heading level the product is clearly defined by Chapter 72, Note 1(k), HTSUS.

As to counsel’s fourth argument in support of the heading 8443 classification, Motor Wheel Corp. v. U.S., 19 C.I.T. 385 (1995), held, in part, that flat-rolled steel in coils stamped by a cookie cutter process into unfinished wheel discs, were no longer within the common meaning of the term “flat-rolled products” of heading 7208, HTSUS, but had assumed the character of stamped articles of iron or steel of heading 7326, HTSUS. Initially, the tariff provisions and the particular facts in Motor Wheel are different from those at issue here. Moreover, as we have already concluded, because evidence is lacking in this case that the doctor blade material has assumed the character of doctor blades for printing machinery, Motor Wheel is not authority for classifying this merchandise. In respect of Doherty-Barrow of Texas, Inc. v. U.S., 2 C.I.T. (1982), the same conclusion obtains. In that case under the TSUS, the court held that merchandise meeting the tariff definition of strip, of iron or steel, that otherwise met all standard specifications for steel cotton bale ties, except for length, was properly classifiable as bale ties, of iron or steel, made from strip. Supported by long-standing case law, the court emphasized that it’s conclusion follow[ed] where the import was not commercially capable of any other use, and only in case the character or identity of the individual articles is fixed with certainty (Emphasis original). As previously stated, these conditions are not met with respect to the merchandise at issue.

Finally, counsel cites NY A88877 and NY A88878, both dated November 15, 1996, as evidence of Customs inconsistent treatment of substantially similar merchandise. Those cases dealt with doctor blades made of epoxy resin stratified with glass fibers, and similar materials. The merchandise had uniform width and thickness, and was imported in 10 meter lengths, with not more (but presumably less) than one meter of length being trimmed after importation. The product was to be completed with other components into doctor blade assemblies. Both rulings found the merchandise to be incomplete or unfinished articles for tariff purposes, classifiable in heading 8419, HTSUS, as parts of machinery for making paper pulp, paper or paperboard. The merchandise in those cases had one or more edges bevelled at an angle between 30 and 90 degrees to create a cutting edge. The presence of the cutting edge, and the relatively minimal trimming after importation, led to their characterization in the rulings as “doctor blades” or “epoxy blades.” This suggests that, as imported, the
identity of individual doctor blades was fixed with certainty so as to warrant their classification as parts of papermaking machines, incomplete or unfinished. Because the cited rulings involve facts that are clearly distinguishable from the facts in this case, we conclude that the rulings are not precedent here. On the other hand, coater blades substantially similar to those in the cited rulings, but imported in material lengths and rolled into coils for shipping purposes, are classifiable as flat-rolled products of iron or nonalloy steel, in subheading 7211.90.00, HTSUS. See NY A85806, dated July 24, 1996. Clearly, because of their condition as imported, it was difficult in that case to establish the identity of one or more coater blades so as to justify their classification as articles, imported incomplete or unfinished. Also on point in this regard are NY A85806, dated July 24, 1996, and HQ 954366, dated September 7, 1993.


Under the authority of GRI 1, the doctor blade steel is provided for in headings 7211 and 7226. It is classifiable in subheading 7211.90.00, HTSUS, and in subheading 7226.99.00, HTSUS, as appropriate.

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 are to 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 make the decision available to Customs personnel, and to the public on the Customs Home Page on the World Wide Web at www.customs.gov, by means of the Freedom of Information Act, and other methods of public distribution.


Myles B. Harmon, Acting Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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