HQ 080294

April 21 1989

CLA-2 CO:R:C:G 080294 APS

Ms. Evelyn F. Reep
Texmac Inc.
2731 Interstate Street
P.O. Box 668128
Charlotte, North Carolina 28266

Re: Tariff classification of the HDD optical disk flaw inspection system from Japan.

Dear Ms. Reep:

Your letter dated March 11, 1987, to the Customs Service in New York has been referred to Customs Headquarters for reply.


The merchandise under consideration is an inspection system used to detect flaws in optical disks. The inspection system contains a transmission lamp, a reflection lamp, a reflection type CCD camera and a transmission type CCD camera (image sensors).

In operation, the optical disk to be inspected is rotated between the transmission lamp and inspection lamp. The high speed linear arrayed image sensors act as the image pick-up element and detect flaws on the optical disk revealed by the light source unit. Video signals from the linear arrayed image sensors are converted into electrical signals and then processed in the flaw decision circuit. The reflection and transmission projection correspond to a range of flaws such as silver, pinholes, scratches, bubbles, black spots, foreign matter, burned dust, or thread.

The result of the optical scanning process can be a printed read-out of the number of flaws by size (large, medium, small), or very small; or a printed colored flaw map showing where the flaws are located on the disk, or a display of the flaws on a color monitor for inspection by the operator.

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Is the inspection device "optical" for purposes of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA).


Additional U.S. note 3 to Chapter 90, HTSUSA provides that the term "optical appliances" and "optical instruments" refer only to those appliances and instruments which incorporate one or more optical elements but do not include any appliances or instruments in which the incorporated optical elements are for some subsidiary purpose.

The drawing you submitted displays the inner parts of the transmission type and reflection type cameras. It shows that they contain lenses and mirrors for picking up and detecting the flaws which are exposed on the disk by the light source unit. These optical elements are required for the operation of the device and are not subsidiary. Thus, the system is clearly optical.

The results obtained by the optics are processed by a decision circuit which decides the Go/NoGo output of the system. There is no human intervention in the system as the final product is in the form of a paper read out, a printed colored flaw map or an image on a color monitor.

In our opinion the device should be classified as an optical instrument. Although there may be some indication in the case law under earlier tariff acts that an optical instrument must aid or enhance human vision directly it would seem that this is an outmoded concept. Where the information obtained by the optics is either so rapidly produced or so voluminous or so exquisitely fine that the human brain cannot possibly process it and an intermediate device is required to process the information to present it in useable form, there is in a sense, an aid or an enhancement of human vision, albeit not that conceived of by the framers of the earlier tariff acts.

Cf. Timex Corporation v. The United States, Slip Op. 88-90 July 13, 1988. In discussing a provision of the Tariff Schedules of the United States in connection with another matter, the Court commented that when that tariff schedule was enacted, it left the wording of earlier statutes and the reasoning of earlier cases behind. The Court remarked that the new statute was a less tortured one and it should not be burdened with outmoded technicalities which lead to absurd results. It should be read to effectuate the intent of Congress. We think this reasoning is equally applicable to the classification of optics under the HTSUSA.

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The HDD optical disk flaw inspection system is classifiable as measuring or checking instruments, appliances, and machines ***: Other optical instruments and appliances under subheading 9031.40.0000 HTSUSA and dutiable as products of Japan at the rate of 10 percent ad valorem.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division