CLA-2 CO:R:C:M 954638 MBR

District Director
U.S. Customs Service
555 Battery Street
San Francisco, CA 94111

RE: Protest No. 2809-93-100926; LCD Systems Corporation; Liquid Crystal Display; LCD; Signaling; 8531; 9013; HQ 951609; HQ 951288; HQ 952360; HQ 086929; HQ 952973; E.M. Chemicals v. United States

Dear District Director:

This is our response to Protest Number 2809-93-100926, regarding the classification of Liquid Crystal Displays (LCDs), under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). The subject merchandise was entered on August 21, 1992, and the entry was liquidated on April 23, 1993. The protest was timely filed on May 11, 1993.


LCD Systems Corporation imports liquid crystal displays ("LCDs"), complete with row and column drivers and electrical connections, which are custom designed and dedicated to specific instrumentation signaling functions. The LCDs are utilized in functions such as electronic price tags, medical instrumentation, diving equipment, camera controls and industrial controls. The LCDs consist of alphanumeric indication, iconographic indication and limited character display.


Are the instant liquid crystal displays classifiable under the provision for electric sound or visual signaling apparatus, or under the provision for liquid crystal devices?



The General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's) to the HTSUS govern the classification of goods in the tariff schedule. GRI 1 states, in pertinent part:

...classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes...

The instant LCDs are prima facie classifiable under the following subheadings:

8531 Electric sound or visual signaling apparatus (for example, bells, sirens, indicator panels...

8531.20.00 Indicator panels incorporating liquid crystal devices (LCD's) or light emitting diodes (LED's)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

9013 Liquid crystal devices not constituting articles provided for more specifically in other headings

9013.80.60 Other devices, appliances and instruments: Other

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Heading 8531, HTSUS, provides for electric sound or visual signaling apparatus. Therefore, to be classifiable in this heading, the apparatus must be designed for "signaling," as that term is defined for tariff purposes.

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) to heading 8531, HTSUS, page 1381, are fairly descriptive and restrictive as to the types of "signaling" indicator panels and the like must perform in order to be classifiable in that provision. It states: "[t]hese are used (e.g., in offices, hotels and factories) for calling personnel, indicating where a certain person or service is required, indicating whether a room is free or not. They include:

(1) Room indicators. These are large panels with numbers corresponding to a number of rooms...

(2) Number indicators. The signals appear as illuminated figures on the face of a small box; in some apparatus of this kind the calling mechanism is operated by the dial of a telephone. Also clock type indicators in which the numbers are indicated by a hand moving round a dial.


(3) Office indicators, for example, those used to indicate whether the occupant of a particular office is free or not...

(4) Lift indicators. These indicate, on an illuminated board, where the lift is and whether it is going up or down. etc.

Therefore, only those LCDs which are limited by design and function to that of "signaling," are classifiable in heading 8531, HTSUS. In HQ 952246, dated November 10, 1992 (citing HQ 951288, dated July 7, 1992), we held that the Epson EA-D16125AR-S (2 lines of 16 characters) is restricted by its limited operational capabilities to that of signaling functions, and is classifiable under subheading 8531.20.00, HTSUS.

E.M. Chemicals v. United States, Appeal No. 90-1141, Cust. Bul. Vol. 24, No. 51, (1990), 13 CIT 849, 728 F. Supp. 723 (1989), held that under the Tariff Schedules of the United States ("TSUS"), the actual liquid crystals themselves were classifiable under item 685.70 (the predecessor provision to heading 8531, HTSUS). However, there has been a significant change in the relevant tariff provisions under the HTSUS. In fact, heading 9013, HTSUS, which provides for LCDs specifically, is a new provision under the HTSUS. Furthermore, LCDs have been technologically developed for a myriad of uses, many of which cannot be said to be for "signaling."

In HQ 952246 we held that due to the expansive character capabilities of the EG-2401S-ER-1 (1 line with 64 characters) and EG-7500B-NS-1 (1 line with 200 characters) a principal use of signaling cannot be supported. However, due to the submission of supplemental information in HQ 952973, dated August 5, 1993, regarding the principal use of LCDs, we are of the opinion that LCDs having 80 or less characters are restricted to signaling functions by virtue of their operational limitations. Clearly, the instant LCDs contain less than 80 characters, but even more importantly, the principal use of all of the instant LCDs is that of signaling in such apparatus as cameras, industrial controls, medical instrumentation, diving equipment and electronic price tags. Furthermore, we have previously held that LCD electronic price tags are classifiable as signaling apparatus (see HQ 088225, dated January 31, 1991).

As noted, the instant LCDs are also prima facie classifiable in heading 9013, HTSUS, which provides for: "[l]iquid crystal devices not constituting articles provided for more specifically in other headings." Because the instant LCDs are provided for more specifically in another heading (heading 8531, HTSUS), they are not classifiable in heading 9013, HTSUS.


Thus, the general rule is that unless a principal use for "signaling" (heading 8531, HTSUS) or for ADP display (heading 8471, HTSUS) can be established satisfactorily either by design limitation or other reliable means, LCD displays are classifiable in subheading 9013.80.60, HTSUS, which provides for: "[l]iquid crystal devices not constituting articles provided for more specifically in other headings: [o]ther devices, appliances and instruments: [o]ther." However, if the LCD contains 80 or less characters it is restricted to signaling functions by virtue of its operational limitations.


The LCD Systems Corporation liquid crystal displays are dedicated by their use and their limited operational capabilities to that of signaling functions. Therefore, they are classifiable in subheading 8531.20.00, HTSUS, which provides for: "[e]lectric sound or visual signaling apparatus (for example, bells, sirens, indicator panels...: [i]ndicator panels incorporating liquid crystal devices (LCD's) or light emitting diodes (LED's)."

For the reasons stated above, this protest should be allowed in full. In accordance with Section 3A(11)(b) of Customs Directive 099 3550-065, dated August 4, 1993, Subject: Revised Protest Directive, this decision, together with the Customs Form 19, should be mailed by your office to the protestant no later than 60 days from the date of this letter. Any reliquidation of the entry in accordance with this decision must be accomplished prior to the mailing of this decision. Sixty days from the date of this decision the Office of Regulations and Rulings will take steps to make this decision available to Customs personnel via the Customs Rulings Module in ACS and the public via the Diskette Subscription Service, Lexis, Freedom of Information Act and other public access channels.


John Durant, Director