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
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
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
LAW AND ANALYSIS:
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
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
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,
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