United States International Trade Commision Rulings And Harmonized Tariff Schedule
faqs.org  Rulings By Number  Rulings By Category  Tariff Numbers
faqs.org > Rulings and Tariffs Home > Rulings By Number > 2006 HQ Rulings > HQ 967888 - HQ 967987 > HQ 967966

Previous Ruling Next Ruling
HQ 967966

APRIL 21, 2006



TARIFF NO.: 9010.50.60

David Newman
Director, Law Department
Sony Electronics Inc.
123 Tice Boulevard
Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey 07675

RE: Sony Lean Integrated Mastering System; HQ 962354 Revoked

Dear Mr. Newman:

In HQ 962354, dated July 23, 1999, the Sony Lean Integrated Mastering System-High Density (SLIM-HD), machinery for making metallized glass disc substrates, was held to be classifiable in subheading 9013.80.90, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), as other optical appliances and instruments, not specified or included elsewhere in [chapter 90].

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 revocation of HQ 962354 was published on March 8, 2006, in the Customs Bulletin, Volume 40, Number 11. Your comment favoring the proposed revocation was the only one received.


As stated in HQ 962354, the SLIM-HD is an in-line system consisting of four (4) components or machines that produce digitally-encoded metal coated glass discs that will be further processed into master discs called stampers. In a separate process, stampers are then used to mass-produce compact discs (CDs) and digital video discs (DVDs). The four components that comprise the SLIM-HD are within a glass or hard plastic enclosure to create positive air pressure and to eliminate dirt and other contaminants. One of the components in the SLIM-HD is a high density laser beam code “cutter” which utilizes a krypton or argon laser beam to burn or expose a pattern in a recording media or photoresist applied as a coating onto the glass disc substrate. It is this component on which we will focus. The description of the SLIM-HD and its method of operation, as stated in HQ 962354, are incorporated by reference in this decision.

The HTSUS provisions under consideration are as follows:

Apparatus and equipment for photographic laboratories..., not specified or included elsewhere in [Chapter 90]...:

Other apparatus and equipment for phographic laboratories...:

9010.50.60 Other

[l]asers, other than laser diodes; other optical appliances and instruments, not specified or included elsewhere in [chapter 90]; parts and accessories thereof:

9013.20.00 Lasers, other than laser diodes

9013.80 Other devices, appliances and instruments:

9013.80.90 Other


Whether the laser beam code cutter component of the SLIM-HD is classified in heading 9010, HTSUS.


Merchandise is classifiable under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). GRI 1 states in part that for legal purposes, classification shall be determined 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 3(b), HTSUS, states, in part, that composite goods consisting of different components shall be classified as if consisting of that component which gives the good its essential character.

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized System. While not legally binding, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the Harmonized System and are thus useful in ascertaining the classification of merchandise under the System. Customs believes the ENs should always be consulted. See T.D. 89-80, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (Aug. 23, 1989).

Relevant ENs state that for purposes of GRI 3 composite goods include, among other things, individual components attached to each other to form a practically inseparable whole, that are adapted one to the other and are mutually complementary, and together they form a whole which would not normally be offered for sale in separate parts. The SLIM-HD conforms to this description.

In letters dated June 11, 1998, and June 22, 1999, submitted in connection with the decision in HQ 962354, you argued that the SLIM-HD was a composite good under GRI 3(b), HTSUS, and that the laser beam code cutter imparted the essential character to the whole. You asserted classification in subheading 9010.50.60, HTSUS, as other apparatus and equipment for photographic laboratories, on the basis that laser beam code cutters perform a “photographic” process for purposes of heading 9010. Your comment essentially restates this claim and emphasizes the similarity in function between the SLIM-HD and conventional cameras, i.e., both utilize and act on a substrate which is coated with a material that is sensitive to electromagnetic radiation or light, which must be developed chemically in order for an image to form, and which results in the formation of visible images.

As previously stated, we agree that the SLIM-HD is a composite good under GRI 3(b), and that the laser beam code cutter component imparts the essential character to the whole. We have thoroughly reviewed your arguments in support of classification in subheading 9010.50.60, HTSUS, and now find them to be compelling. Among those is your reference to QMS, Inc. v. United States, 19 CIT 551 (1995), on color ink sheet rolls for use in thermal transfer printers, where the Court stated its broad interpretation of the term “photographic” as including a “process which permits the formation of visible images directly or indirectly by the action of light or other forms of radiation on sensitive surfaces.” Also referenced was HQ 083123, dated December 18, 1989, which examined the dictionary definition of the term “laboratory” for heading 9010 purposes, and accorded the term a broad interpretation. We do not necessarily view these references as controlling, but we do find them to be instructive.

By its terms, heading 9013 does not include optical appliances and instruments that are specified or included elsewhere in chapter 90. The 9010 heading text includes as apparatus and equipment for photographic laboratories apparatus for the projection or drawing of circuit patterns on sensitized semiconductor materials. The ENs for heading 9010, under (N), describe apparatus used to manufacture electronic integrated circuits, those used to expose circuit patterns onto a sensitized layer which has been applied to the surface of the semiconductor wafer. Direct write-on-wafer apparatus is among the types included. These use an automatic data processing (ADP) machine controlled “writing beam” (such as an electron beam (E-beam), ion beam or laser) to draw the circuit design directly on the sensitized layer, which has been applied to the surface of the semiconductor wafer, after the co-ordinate system of the apparatus has been properly aligned on the underlying patterns of the wafer. The EN under (N) ends with “All these apparatus produce the same end result. That is, an exposure pattern which matches the desired circuit pattern and which is produced on a sensitized material which can be developed much as a photographic film is developed.”

Thus, consideration must be given to whether using a laser to expose patterns in the light-sensitive photoresist layer on a glass disc substrate raises a latent image in the photoresist so as to be considered a “photographic” process. The evidence indicates that focusing the laser’s beam on the photoresist layer develops the digitally encoded data in the photoresist in a process that exposes the pattern as a latent image. Inasmuch as direct write-on-wafer apparatus, as described, is considered “photographic” for heading 9010 purposes, and functions in substantially the same manner as the laser beam recorder under consideration here, the laser beam recorder is likewise considered as performing a “photographic” process for heading 9010 purposes. Such a conclusion eliminates heading 9013 from consideration. This decision will apply only to mastering equipment incorporating laser beam recorders which encode digitally-formatted data onto the photoresist coating of the glass substrates.

Parenthetically, you note that our statement in HQ 962354 that the laser beam code cutter was an optical appliance or instrument which does not contain significant electrical or mechanical features, and in which the optics clearly are not subsidiary is erroneous. This statement was extrapolated from HQ 962939, dated July 8, 1999, and HQ 956839, dated March 28, 1996, and was designed to explain why CBP believed that the laser beam recorder in HQ 962354 was within the terms “optical appliances” and “optical instruments” for heading 9013 purposes, pursuant to Chapter 90, Additional U.S. Note 3, HTSUS. However, in view of our conclusion that the laser beam code cutter at issue here is provided for in heading 9010 and not in heading 9013, this statement is no longer relevant to the analysis, particularly inasmuch as HQ 962354 is revoked.


Under the authority of GRI 3(b), HTSUS, the SLIM-HD is provided for in heading 9010. It is classifiable as other apparatus and equipment for photographic laboratories in subheading 9010.50.60, HTSUS.


HQ 962354, dated July 23, 1999, is revoked. In accordance with 19 U.S.C. 1625(c), this ruling will become effective 60 days after its publication in the Customs Bulletin.


Gail A. Hamill
for Myles B. Harmon, Director
Commercial and Trade Facilitation Division

Previous Ruling Next Ruling

See also: