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HQ 965634

JULY 16, 2002

CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 965634 JAS


TARIFF NO.: 9027.20.40

Roland L. Shrull
Middleton & Schrull
44 Mall Road, Suite 106
Burlington, MA 01803

RE: Chromatograph; Instruments and Apparatus for Physical or Chemical Analysis; HQ 087077 Modified

Dear Mr. Shrull:

In HQ 087077, issued to the District (now Port) Director of Customs, Boston, on March 27, 1991, as a response to Internal Advice 25/90, on behalf of VG Instruments, Inc., we held, among other things, that a chromatograph and a chromatography server, imported together, were separately classifiable, in headings 9027 and 8741, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), respectively. The ruling stated that without the automatic data processing (ADP) machine which receives digitally-formatted data from the server, the apparatus would qualify as an “unfinished functional unit” which is not sanctioned by any HTSUS legal note.

Pursuant to section 625(c), Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. 1625(c)), as amended by section 623 of Title VI (Customs Modernization) of the North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act, Pub. L. 103-182, 107 Stat. 2057, 2186 (1993), notice of the proposed modification of HQ 087077 was published on June 5, 2002, in the Customs Bulletin, Volume 36, Number 23. Four (4) comments were received in response to that notice. All favored Customs proposal. These comments are substantially in accordance with the discussion in this ruling under LAW AND ANALYSIS.


The merchandise in IA 25/90, the Chromatography Data Management System, consisted of a chromatography server, the chromatograph, used by chemists and others to analyze and measure the constituents in gases or liquids, and an automatic data processing (ADP) unit. The server was said to act as an interface between the chromatograph and the ADP unit by converting analog data received from the chromatograph into digital format, then transmitting that data to the ADP unit. The individual components were connected by electrical cables. Although HQ 087077 considered several proposed import configurations, the specific importation consisting of a chromatography server and a chromatograph without the ADP unit is at issue here. The ruling concluded that “because there are no HTSUS legal notes that provide for unfinished functional units” the server and chromatograph were to be classifiable separately. After a thorough review of the matter, we have determined that this is incorrect and no longer represents Customs position in the matter.

The HTSUS provisions under consideration are as follows:

Automatic data processing machines and units thereof;:

8471.99.90 (now 90.00) Other

9027 Instruments and apparatus for physical or chemical analysis; instruments and apparatus for measuring or checking viscosity, porosity, expansionor the like:

9027.20 Chromatographs and electrophoresis instruments:

9027.20.40 (now 50) Electrical


Whether a chromatography server imported with a chromatograph, but without an automatic data processing (ADP) unit, is an incomplete or unfinished good that contributes to a clearly defined function described in heading 9027.


Under General Rule of Interpretation (GRI) 1, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), goods are to be classified 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. GRI 2(b), HTSUS, extends the scope of a heading to include goods imported incomplete or unfinished provided that, as imported, the incomplete or unfinished good has the essential character of the complete or finished good.

Section XVI, Note 4, HTSUS, covers machines consisting of individual components (whether separate or interconnected by piping, by transmission devices, by electric cables or by other devices) intended to contribute together to a clearly defined function covered by one of the headings in chapters 84 or 85. The whole, in such cases, is classified in the heading appropriate to that function. Chapter 90, Note 3, HTSUS, applies Note 4 to Section XVI, to goods of Chapter 90.

In the request for internal advice that resulted in HQ 087077, the inquirer contended that an importation of a chromatograph and server constituted a functional unit classifiable in subheading 9027.20.40, HTSUS. We rejected that classification on the basis that the ADP unit, missing in this case, was necessary to complete the functional unit.

By its terms, GRI 2(a), HTSUS, extends the scope of a 4-digit heading to include an article, whether assembled or unassembled, that is imported incomplete or unfinished. The imported article, however, must be found to have the essential character of the complete or unfinished good. Section XVI, Note 4, HTSUS, is the authority under GRI 1 for classifying a series of machines or components in a 4-digit heading describing a clearly defined function performed by the goods. Given the relationship between GRI 1 and GRI 2(a) in determining the scope of headings, it logically follows, in our opinion, that GRI 2(a) may also be applied to determine whether under GRI 1 a series of machines or components may qualify for classification under Section XVI, Note 4, even if imported incomplete or unfinished.

Under GRI 2(a), the factor or factors which determine essential character will vary with the goods. It may, for example, be determined by the nature of a component or components, their bulk, quantity, weight or value, or the role of a component or components in relation to the use of the good. It is the latter factor that is the most compelling in this case. The facts here establish that the chromatography server is significant because it integrates input signals, hence it eliminates high frequency noise and protects the integrity of the signals. In addition, if the host computer goes off-line, the server can direct data to alternate computers in the network, and if the entire system
goes down, the server can store data until a suitable host computer can be found. Thus, no data is lost. Of course, the ADP unit is equally significant as it is the computer that processes and arranges the data into a usable format. However, it is the chromatograph that performs the actual analyzing and/or measuring function. The chromatograph is the very heart of the Chromatography Data Management System. For this reason, we conclude that an importation consisting of a chromatography server and a chromatograph represents the aggregate of distinctive component parts that establish the identity of the importation as apparatus performing the clearly defined function of chromatography described in heading 9027.


Under the authority of GRI 2(a) and Section XVI, Note 4, HTSUS, as applied by Chapter 90, Note 3, HTSUS, a chromatography server and chromatograph, imported together, constitute a functional unit, incomplete or unfinished, provided for in heading 9027. Actual classification is in subheading 9027.20.40, HTSUS.


HQ 087077, dated March 27, 1991, is modified as to this merchandise. In accordance with 19 U.S.C. 1625(c), this ruling will become effective 60 days after its publication in the Customs Bulletin.


Myles B. Harmon, Acting Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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