CLA-2 CO:R:C:G 086032 CMS

Tariff No.: 8543.80.90

District Director of Customs
909 First Avenue, Room 2039
Seattle, WA 98174

RE: Message Display Centers

Dear Sir,

This will respond to your memorandum of November 22, 1989, (file: CLA-2 SE:B:B:CO MM:slj) in which you requested the reconsideration of Ruling Letter 844363. Our decision follows:


The merchandise consists of message display centers. The displays are comprised of a matrix of numerous incandescent lamps assembled in a sheet metal cabinet. The display centers include a computer program which allows the user to create full color animation, graphics, and text. Images are formed when the pixels (i.e. lamps) turn on, off, or half-on, at a rate of up to 30 times a second. The merchandise is used to advertise merchandise, state greetings, and to generally attract a person's attention to a particular store or service, or to the message display itself.

Ruling Letter 844363 classified the merchandise in 8543.80.90, HTSUSA. Your request for reconsideration asks us to consider classifying the merchandise in 9405.60, HTSUSA.


Are the message display centers classified in 9405.60, HTSUSA as illuminated signs and the like, or in 8543.80, HTSUSA, as electrical apparatus having individual functions not provided for elsewhere?



Heading 9405 provides in pertinent part:

Lamps and lighting fittings...not elsewhere specified or included; illuminated signs... and the like, having a permanently fixed light source... not elsewhere specified or included:

9405.60 Illuminated signs...and the like

The Explanatory Notes to Heading 9405, p. 1581, indicate that the provision for illuminated signs and the like includes advertising lamps, signs and like articles such as advertising plates. The Explanatory Notes do not further explain this provision or provide specific examples of illuminated advertising signs which are classified here.

By its own language, Heading 9405 provides for illuminated signs and the like. Random House Dictionary Of The English Language, Unabridged Edition, p. 414, defines "illuminate" in pertinent part as follows:

to supply with light; light up... to throw light on (a subject)

Thus, "illuminated signs" refers to signs which have light cast on them, or are "lit up". Signs which are made of metal, plastic or glass are classified in 9405, HTSUSA if they are illuminated, and are classified according to their constituent material if they have no illumination feature. (See Explanatory Notes to 9405, HTSUSA, p. 1582).

Heading 9405 does not expressly include or exclude "signs" which are actually computer programmed electronic displays comprised of a matrix of numerous lamps (the display in Ruling 844363 contained up to 24,000 pixels).

Advertising signs classified under 9405, HTSUSA have two distinct and separable features (i.e. they must be signs, and they must have an illumination feature). A sign without an illumination feature still functions as a sign and is classified as such according to its constituent material; lamps which illuminate advertising signs can still function as illumination devices when they are not lighting up signs.

In contrast, the illumination lamps of an electronic display themselves form the display or message which is advertised. An electronic display without its illumination feature no longer functions as an electronic display (except as a grossly -3-

incomplete or non-functional display). A description for an electronic display as an illuminated display is redundant, suggesting that such a display was not intended to be described by the provision for "illuminated signs".

The only other provision of Heading 9405 under which the merchandise might be classified would be "illuminated signs... and the like" (emphasis supplied). Heading 9405 would include static illuminated panels used as traffic direction signs (see Explanatory Notes to Heading 8530, p. 1380). It is not clear whether these direction panels are comprised of a matrix of lamps, or whether the panels are made of metal, plastic, etc. and simply lighted with an illumination device.

Even if the "panels" do contain a matrix of lamps, the instant merchandise is much more than static direction panels and similar articles. While a direction panel might be able to convey several messages (e.g., arrow left, arrow right), the thousands of pixels in the message display centers can be programmed to display virtually any message, in the form of text, graphics and full color animation at thirty picture frames a second.

The instant merchandise is more than "illuminated signs...and the like", is not ejusdem generis with the articles classified in Heading 9405, and cannot be classified in 9405, HTSUSA.

Lighted electrical articles which perform functions which are more than illumination are generally classified in Chapter 85, HTSUSA (e.g. traffic control equipment for railroads, roads or airfields: 8530; signalling equipment used on cycles and vehicles: 8512; other visual signalling equipment: 8531). The Explanatory Notes to Heading 8531, p. 1382, exclude "electric advertising signs" from classification in 8531, HTSUSA. By virtue of the previous discussion, the instant merchandise may or may not be an advertising sign .

Nevertheless, the message display centers perform a function which is different than that of signalling equipment. Although the instant merchandise can flash graphics or animation to call a person's attention to the display, its primary purpose is to convey a substantive message; this function is more than that of signalling equipment which is designed to provide a signal to a viewer who normally will instantaneously understand the meaning of the signal.

There are no other Headings which specifically describe the merchandise. The message display centers are electrical apparatus having an individual function, not provided for elsewhere, classified in 8543.80.90, HTSUSA.



Ruling 844363 properly classified the message display centers in 8543.80.90, HTSUSA.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division