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HQ 966033

December 23, 2002

CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 966033 DSS


TARIFF NO.: 8421.19.90

Assistant Port Director
Trade Operations

610 S. Canal Street

Chicago, IL 60607

RE: Further Review of Protest No. 3901-02-101395; Centrifugal Oil Filters; General Rule of Interpretation 3.

Dear Port Director:

This is our decision on Protest 3901-02-101395, filed by Import Logistics, Inc. on behalf of the importer of record, Mann & Hummel (UK) Ltd. against your classification, under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), of what was described on the entry documents as “centrifugal oil filters.” The entry was liquidated on June 14, 2002, and this protest was timely filed on August 9, 2002.


The merchandise at issue is advertised as a “Centrifugal Oil Cleaner,” produced by Mann & Hummel (UK) Ltd. (formerly Federal Mogul Filters (UK)). Product literature submitted by the protestant to the National Import Specialist depicts the instant article. The centrifugal oil cleaner consists of a body with outer cover and a central spindle around which a rotor spins at high speed. The oil passes through the rotor, spinning at a high speed of up to 8,000 revolutions per minute so that the particles in the oil are deposited on the inner wall of the rotor to form a dense cake. It can remove contaminants from oil ranging from under a micon to more than 10 microns in size.

The same product literature describes the oil cleaning process. The cleaner operates as a by-pass filter, independent of the main engine oil filter and processes approximately 10 percent of the lube oil before returning it directly to the engine’s sump. Oil is pumped into the centrifuge by the engine’s oil pump at pressure and directed into a hollow spindle where it exits via a cross-drilling into
the centrifuge rotor. The rotor becomes full of pressurized oil that is then allowed to exit through two tangentially opposed nozzles in the rotor base. This action causes rotation of the free spinning rotor assembly, thus, generating centrifugal force within the rotor. As contaminant particles enter the rotor, they are subjected to a centrifugal force within the rotor. This force causes the particles to migrate radially outward to the inner surface of the rotor wall where, over time, they compact to form a dense cake. The product literature explains that the oil cleaner does not replace the oil filter, but only supplements it as a secondary or by-pass filter.

The machine was entered under subheading 8421.19.90, HTSUS, as an “other centrifuge.” However, the entry was liquidated under the subheading 8421.23.00, HTSUS, as an “oil [f]ilter for an internal combustion engine.” You rejected the protestor’s classification based on the doctrine of relative specificity. You argue that this article is properly classified under its principal use as a filter apparatus under subheading 8421.23.00, HTSUS, rather than classified eo nomine as a centrifuge under subheading 8421.19.90, HTSUS. The protestor argues that prior liquidations of similar machines in New York were made under subheading 8421.19.90, HTSUS, as “other centrifuges.”

The HTSUS provisions under consideration are as follows:

8421 Centrifuges, including centrifugal dryers; filtering or purifying machinery and apparatus, for liquids or gases; parts thereof:

Centrifuges, including centrifugal dryers:

8421.19 Other:
8421.19.90 Other:

Filtering or purifying machinery and apparatus for liquids: 8421.23.00 Oil or fuel filters for internal combustion engines


Is the proper tariff classification for this article as a centrifuge, under 8421.19.90 or as an oil filter for an internal combustion engine, under 8421.23.00?


Initially, we note that the protest was timely filed and that the classification made at the port of entry is protestable (see 19 U.S.C. § 1514(a)(2) and (5)).

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. GRI 3 is utilized when, by application of GRI 2(b), a good consists of materials or components which are prima facie classifiable under two or more headings. In such a case, classification of the goods shall be effected as follows: “[GRI 3](a) [t]he heading which provides the most specific description shall be preferred to headings providing a more general description.” According to GRI 6, the classification of goods in the subheadings of a heading shall be determined according to the terms of those subheadings and related subheading notes and, mutatis mutandis, to the above rules, on the understanding that only subheadings at the same level are comparable. The relative section, chapter and subchapter notes also apply, unless the context otherwise requires.

In interpreting the headings and subheadings, Customs looks to the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs). Although not legally binding, they provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the HTSUS. It is Customs practice to follow, whenever possible, the terms of the ENs when interpreting the HTSUS. See T.D. 89-90, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (August 23, 1989).

For classification under heading 8421, HTSUS, the device must be “machinery or apparatus.” Note 5, Section XVI, HTSUS, defines “machine” as “any machine, machinery, plant, equipment, apparatus or appliance cited in the headings of chapter 84 or 85.” This device satisfies this description because it is prima facie classifiable as either a centrifuge or filtering machinery and apparatus for liquids, which is provided for in heading 8421, HTSUS.

GRI 6 permits us to compare subheadings within the same heading, provided that only subheadings at the same level are comparable. Under GRI 6, the relative section, chapter and subchapter notes apply, unless the context otherwise requires. Because only subheadings at the same level are comparable, it is necessary to compare the terms of the subheadings at each indentation before going on to consider competing subheadings at the next indentation. See, e.g., HQ 962592, dated April 9, 2001. In this case, the first comparison between subheadings occurs at the first indentation comparing “centrifuges, including centrifugal dryers” to “filtering or purifying apparatus or machinery for liquids” (see above).

According to GRI 3(a), when goods are, prima facie, classifiable under two or more headings, “[T]he heading which provides the most specific description shall be preferred to headings providing a more general description.” Thus, the merchandise in question must be classified pursuant to the heading providing the most specific description. See Better Home Plastics Corp v. U.S., 20 C.I.T. 221, 222; 916 F. Supp. 1265, 1266 (1996). Moreover, EN 3(a)(IV)(a) states in pertinent part that “a description by name is more descriptive than a description by class.” The term “filter or purifying apparatus or machinery for liquids” would appear to be less descriptive of the article under consideration than the term “centrifuges, including centrifugal dryers.”

EN 84.21 states in relevant part, “This heading covers: (I) Machines which, by the use of centrifugal force, completely or partly separate substances according to their different specific gravities, or which remove the moisture from wet substances. . . . [and] (II) Filtering or purifying machinery and apparatus for liquids . . . .” The EN further states that:

Most [centrifuges] consist essentially of a perforated plate, drum, basket, bowl, etc. revolving at great speed in a stationary collector, usually cylindrical, against the walls of which the expelled materials are projected by centrifugal force. . . . In [some] types the solid ingredients are retained in the perforated revolving drum, basket, etc. and the liquid ingredients expelled. . . .

In regard to filters, the EN states that most such apparatus filters the liquid by passing it through a sheet, membrane or mass of porous material, although the heading covers liquid filters of the gravity, suction (or vacuum) or pressure types.

You state the protest should be denied because when a product is described in competing provisions, a use provision always prevails over a eo nomine provision. However, a use provision does not always prevail over a eo nomine provision under GRI 3(a). See Carl Zeiss, Inc. v. United States, 195 F.3d 1375 (Fed. Cir. 1999). In that case, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit stated that under the rule of specificity, “the court w[ill] look to the provision with requirements that are more difficult to satisfy and that describe the article with the greatest degree of accuracy and certainty.” Id. at 1380 (citing Orlando Food Corp. v. United States, 140 F.3d 1437, 1441 (Fed. Cir. 1998).

We feel that this article should be classified under subheading 8421.19, HTSUS, as a centrifuge, according to GRI 3(a). In this case, subheading 8421.19, HTSUS, is the provision with the requirements that are more difficult to satisfy and that describes the article with the greater degree of accuracy and certainty. In considering EN 84.21, liquid filter provisions of heading 8421 cover a wide range of liquid filters (e.g. physical or mechanical, chemical, magnetic, electro-magnetic, electrostatic, etc.). They also cover a wide range of filtration media and types (gravity, suction or pressure). The centrifuge provision covers a narrower range of articles, namely centrifuges, which separate materials in a specific manner, namely expelling the separated material against an outer wall by centrifugal force. Indeed, a centrifuge is not a barrier-type filtration device and does not rely on filtration media to remove contaminants. In this type of device, removal of particles is based on their relative density, unlike barrier media, which only remove particles larger than the pore size of the media.

Moreover, an examination of EN 84.21(II)(A) supports classification of this device as a centrifuge. It describes filtering and purifying machines for liquids; there is no mention of centrifuges in this note. However, EN 84.21(I)(4) gives examples of centrifuges performing a filtering or similar function. We interpret the scope of the term centrifuges in heading 8421 to include those performing a filtering function as provided under subheading 8421.19. Thus, we believe that although this article is a machine performing the function of filtering oil, it is properly classified as a centrifuge because this provision provides the most accurate and complete description of the article.

Moreover, the instant centrifugal oil cleaner is distinguishable from the combination centrifuge/filtering device in HQ 959996, dated July 24, 1997, which we classified as an oil filtering machine under subheading 8421.29.00, HTSUS. The subject of that ruling was the Tube Separator HD Cleaner, which is used in the papermaking industry and consists of a cylindrical reverse cleaner and a smaller centrifuge or rotor-induced cleaner, which is said to be an adjunct to the larger reverse cleaner. We felt that both components functioned in sequence to mechanically separate dirt and contaminants from waste paper pulp through mechanical separation during the stock preparation phase of making recycled paper. In that ruling, however, the bulk of the filtering was accomplished by the cylindrical reverse cleaner, which gave the device its essential character, and as a consequence, it was classified under 8421.29.00, HTSUS, according to GRI 3(b). In this case, the sole device under consideration is a centrifuge.


Under the authority of GRI 1, the centrifugal oil cleaner is provided for in heading 8421. Applying the GRIs to the subheading level through GRI 6, it is classifiable in subheading 8421.19.90, HTSUS, which provides for “Centrifuges, including centrifugal dryers; filtering or purifying machinery and apparatus, for liquids or gases; parts thereof: [C]entrifuges, including centrifugal dryers: [o]ther: [o]ther.”

The protest should be ALLOWED. 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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