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HQ 966361

December 9, 2004

CLA-2 RR: CR: GC 966361 RSD


TARIFF NO.: 8536.50.90

Ms. Madeline B. Kuflik
Assistant General Counsel
One Panasonic Way, 3B-6
Secaucus, New Jersey 07094

RE: Request for consideration of HQ 965895, Classification of "Light Touch" Switches; "Push Button" Switches; "Momentary Contact" Switches; Snap-Action; Electromechanical

Dear Ms. Kuflik:

This is in response to your letter dated March 4, 2003, requesting reconsideration of HQ 965895 dated December 13, 2002, issued to Panasonic Industrial Company (PIC) regarding the classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (“HTSUS”) of “light touch” switches, that are used primarily in cellular telephones.


The facts presented in HQ 965895 have not been contested, and thus we restate them here. The merchandise at issue are certain switches known as "light touch," "push button" or "momentary contact" switches. These switches are used primarily in cellular phones, although you have stated that they have other uses as well. They are designed for a current not exceeding 11 amps.

The switches are used by pressing on a button (or "knob") until a metal diaphragm (located under the button) snaps down with a "click" feeling (or a tactile feedback), making a momentary contact of the switch while it is depressed. Once the pressing action is stopped (by releasing the button), the pressed diaphragm snaps back, cutting the contact of the switch, giving a click-back feeling through the button.

In support of your claim, in your letter of March 4, 2003, you have submitted an affidavit from Dr. Walid Hubbi, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. ISSUE:

Are the subject switches properly classified under subheading 8536.50.70, HTSUS, as electromechanical snap-action switches not exceeding 11 amps?


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:

Electrical apparatus for switching or protecting electrical circuits, or for making connections to or in electrical circuits (for example, switches, relays, fuses, surge suppressors, plugs, sockets, lamp-holders, junction boxes), for a voltage not exceeding 1,000 V:

Other switches:


Electronic AC switches consisting of optically coupled input and output circuits (insulated thyristor AC switches); electronic switches, including temperature protected switches, consisting of a transistor and a logic chip (chip-on-chip technology); electromechanical snap-action switches for a current not exceeding 11 amps

8536.50.90 Other:

GRI 6, provides as follows:

For legal purposes, the classification of goods in the subheadings of a heading shall be determined according to the terms of those subheadings and any related subheading notes and, mutatis mutandis, to the above rules on the understanding that only subheadings at the same level are comparable. For the purposes of this rule, the relative section, chapter and subchapter notes also apply, unless the context otherwise requires.

To ensure uniformity at the subheading level, GRIs 1 to 5 govern classification at the subheading levels within the same heading. After determining the appropriate heading in accordance with the first five rules, we then apply the GRIs again, at the subheading level.

When making comparisons of subheadings, we compare the same level six-digit to six-digit, or eight-digit to eight-digit subheading, also taking into consideration section and chapter notes at the subheading level, unless the context otherwise requires.

In HQ 965895, we pointed out that the subheadings in question deal with electrical switches that are of the electromechanical, snap-action type, or other snap-action type. Neither "snap-action" nor "electromechanical" is defined in the HTSUS or the ENs. After reviewing the information presented and consulting several different references, we concluded in HQ 965895 that the switches under consideration met the term “snap-action.” However, we also determined that the evidence submitted was insufficient to establish that the switches were electromechanical snap-action switches of the type classified in subheading 8536.50.70, HTSUS. Instead, we found that the switches were properly classified as other switches, under subheading 8536.50.90, HTSUS.

In response to our decision in HQ 965895, you have submitted an affidavit from Dr. Walid Hubbi, an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Dr. Hubbi believes that Customs’ application of the term “electromechanical snap action switches” is too limited. According to Dr. Hubbi, all snap-action switches begin their operation via a mechanical force, which in turn causes a connection to be made to an electrical system. It is Dr Hubbi’s opinion that all snap-action switches are activated manually and no snap-action switches are initially operated electrically. The electrical force is a result of the initial manual force with snap- action switches. He claims that of the many snap-action switches that he has examined, he has not found any switch which began its operation with electrical force that in turn became a mechanical movement.

Undefined tariff terms are construed in accordance with their common and commercial meaning. See Nippon Kogaku (USA), Inc. v. United States, 69 CCPA 89,

673 F2d. 380 (1982). Common and commercial meaning may be determined by consulting dictionaries, lexicons, scientific authorities and other reliable sources. See C.J. Tower & Sons v. United States, 69 CCPA 128, 673 F2d. 1268 (1982).

In order to determine the meaning of the term “electromechanical” we looked at several authoritative sources. Accordingly, in HQ 965895, we considered a number of definitions of the term of “electromechanical.” Specifically, we reviewed information from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics, Inc. Engineers (IEEE) Authoritative Dictionary of IEEE Standards Terms (7th Ed.). The IEEE defines an electromechanical device as:

A device that is electrically operated and has mechanical motion, such as relays, servos, etc.

The same dictionary defines a switch, in pertinent part, as follows:

(4) (electric and electronics parts and equipment) A device for making, breaking, or changing the connections in an electric circuit. Note: a switch may be operated by manual, mechanical, hydraulic, thermal, barometric, or by gravitational means, or by electromechanical means not falling within the definition of "relay."

An electromechanical relay is defined by the IEEE as:

A relay that operates by physical movement of parts resulting from electromagnetic, electrostatic or electro-thermic forces created by the input quantities.

The American National Standard for Telecommunications provides the following definition for switches that are used in communication systems:
switch: 1. In communications systems, a mechanical, electro-mechanical, or electronic device for making, breaking, or changing the connections in or among circuits. 2. Deprecated synonym for central office, switching center. 3. In communications systems, to transfer a connection from one circuit to another. 4. In a computer program, a conditional instruction and a flag that is interrogated by the instruction. 5. In a computer program, a parameter that controls branching and that is bound, prior to the branch point being reached. Synonym switchpoint. 6. In computer programming, a programming technique or statement for making a selection, such as a conditional jump. In computer software applications, a functional unit, such as a toggle button, used to make selections.

Similarly, the International Electromechanical Commission (IEC) Multilingual Dictionary of Electricity, Electronics and Telecommunications, indicates:
electromechanical relay: an electrical relay in which the designed response is developed by the relative movement of mechanical elements under the action of a current in the input circuit.

In addition, in defining the term electromechanical, the seventh edition of Graf's Modern Dictionary of Electronics, states:
electromechanical -- Any device using electrical energy to produce mechanical movement.

The use of the term “electromechanical” in these definitions indicates that it has a specific meaning and that an electromechanical switch is a particular type of switch that operates in a different way from other types of switches.

In HQ 965737 dated August 14, 2002, we ruled on a snap-action electric switch that was classified in subheading 8536.50.70, HTSUS. The ruling concerned a “dark to light” photo control unit AC switch that used sunlight as an input voltage to light a fixture. The unit utilized transistors and “chip-on-chip” technology with an electromechanical relay function that produced a “snap-action.” The switch involved in HQ 965737 was activated by sunlight, which was converted into electricity so that a lighting fixture could be triggered. Therefore, we determined that the article involved an electromechanical snap-action switch that was classified in subheading 8536.50.70. HTSUS. We pointed out that the electromechanical snap-action switch involved in HQ 965737 was not manually activated but was activated by sunlight that was converted into electricity.

According to Dr. Hubbi all snap-action switches are manually activated. Following Dr. Hubbi’s opinion would result in virtually all snap-action switches of less than 11 amps being classified in subheading 8536.50.70, no matter how they operate. In effect, under Dr. Hubbi’s analysis, the term “electromechanical” in subheading 8536.50.70, HTSUS, would be rendered virtually meaningless because almost all snap-action switches would be included in the provision.

We disagree with Dr. Hubbi’s analysis because we believe that the drafters of subheading 8536.50.70, HTSUS, used the term “electromechanical” in the provision for a specific purpose. In our judgment the reason why the word electromechanical was used in subheading 8536.50.70, HTSUS was to designate that only particular kinds of “snap-action” switches should be classified in the provision. Our review of subheading 8536.50.70, HTSUS indicates that the drafters of the HTSUS did not intend that basic manual or mechanical snap-action switches should be classified in subheading 8536.50.70. This is supported by the fact that the other types of switches included in subheading 8536.50.70, HTSUS are sophisticated switches for high technology products rather than basic electric switches. In determining the meaning of the term electromechanical, we follow the IEEE definition mentioned above, such that it applies to a device, which is electrically operated and has mechanical motion. Accordingly, we are persuaded that the term electromechanical snap-action switch as used in subheading 8536.50.70, pertains only to switches in which an electric impulse causes a mechanical motion.

In this instance, the light touch switches in question are manually activated, not electrically activated. Therefore, we find that they are classified in subheading 8536.50.90, HTSUS.


The light touch switches under consideration are classified under subheading 8536.50.9040, HTSUS, as: "Electrical apparatus for switching or protecting electrical circuits, or for making connections to or in electrical circuits (for example, switches, relays, fuses, surge suppressors, plugs, sockets, lamp-holders, junction boxes), for a voltage not exceeding 1,000 V: Other switches: Other: Other" at the at general column one duty rate of 2.7 percent ad valorem. Duty rates are provided for your convenience and are subject to change. The text of the most recent HTSUS and the accompanying duty rates are provided on the World Wide Web at www.usitc.gov.


HQ 965895 is affirmed.


Myles B. Harmon,

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