William Jackson
Engineered Arts Limited
Unit 11, Kernick Business Park
Annear Road
Penryn, Cornwall
United Kingdom TR10 9EW

RE: Tariff classification and country of origin for a humanoid robot

Dear Mr. Jackson:

This is in response to your e-ruling request made on December 9, 2008, to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) National Commodity Specialist Division in New York for a binding ruling on the tariff classification, under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), and country of origin requirements of a humanoid robot referred to as “Robothespian.” Your ruling request was forwarded to this office for a response.


The subject merchandise is a humanoid robot, which is 1.7 meters in height made of welded aluminum and a clear, plastic body shell. In addition to the robot, there is a robot base stand, a control base described as a plywood plinth with touch screen and control PC mounted inside, and a personal digital assistant (PDA) for remote control of the robot exhibit. The control base is used by museum or science center guests to interact with the robot. The robot is powered by a combination of compressed-air and electric motors. There are 31 moving axes which allow for variable speed and the ability of the robot to hold any position. The Robothespian is designed to be a life size interactive exhibit at museums and science centers that has the ability to move, speak, educate, communicate, interact and entertain. Most importantly, you stated that your robot is “aimed solely at the science education sector” in an email to this office on February 7, 2009. As described, the robot is not used for any industrial purpose instead it is used in museums and science centers to explain and demonstrate the facts and science on robots. The robot has the ability to introduce factual information on various exhibits and provide additional information from an interactive touch screen. In your email to us on February 7, 2009 you wrote that the Robothespian would be used in the Carnegie Science Center’s Roboworld to describe the history, anticipated future and current state of robotics research. In particular you listed several topics that the Robothespian would discuss in an email to us on March 12, 2009. Museum patrons could use the Robothespian’s touch screen to have it make presentations on those topics.

According to the information that you provided, the robot’s aluminum body frame, the PET torso and shell, the plywood base and console are all built in your factory in Cornwall, United Kingdom. You also indicated that the control electronics are designed by your company and built in the United Kingdom. The pneumatic components (air cylinders and valves) that operate the arms and finger movements are manufactured in Germany. The miniature pneumatics which operate the fingers are built in Japan. The electric motors which operate the head movements and elbows are manufactured in Switzerland. The touch screen that allows interaction with the robot is built in the United States. Finally, the computer used to run the robotic software is a product of Japan. The Robothespian is then assembled in your factory in the United Kingdom. In addition, the computer that runs the robot is programmed using a program designed by you and installed by you in the United Kingdom.


What is the proper classification under the HTSUS and country of origin for the subject merchandise?



Classification under the HTSUS is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). GRI 1 provides that the classification of goods shall be determined according to the terms of the headings of the tariff schedule and any relative section or chapter notes. In the event that the goods cannot be classified solely on the basis of GRI 1, and if the headings and legal notes do not otherwise require, the remaining GRIs 2 through 6 may then be applied in order.

The HTSUS provisions under consideration in this case are as follows:

8479 Machines and mechanical appliances having individual functions, not specified or included elsewhere in this chapter; parts thereof:

9023 Instruments, apparatus and models, designed for demonstrational purposes (for example, in education or exhibitions), unsuitable for other uses, and parts and accessories, thereof…

9503 Tricycles, scooters, pedal cars and similar wheeled toys; dolls’ carriages; dolls, other toys; reduced-scale (“scale”) models and similar recreational models, working or not; puzzles of all kinds; parts and accessories thereof…

9508 Merry-go rounds, boat-swings, shooting galleries and other fairground amusements; traveling circuses and traveling menageries; traveling theaters; parts and accessories thereof:

9618 Tailors’ dummies and other mannequins; automatons and other animated displays used for shopwindow dressing…

Note 1(m) and (p) to Section XVI, HTSUS, excludes from classification in that section “Articles of Chapter 90” or “Articles of Chapter 95.” Consequently, if the subject goods could be classified in either of those chapters then it would be excluded from classification in Section XVI.

Note 1(k) to Chapter 90 also excludes “Articles of Chapter 95.”

Finally, Note 1(f) and (l) to Chapter 96 exclude “Articles of Chapter 90” and “Articles of Chapter 95” respectively. By operation of the aforementioned notes if the Robothespian is classifiable in Chapter 95, then it must be excluded from all of the other potential headings.

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (EN’s) constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized System at the international level. While not legally binding on the contracting parties, and therefore not dispositive, the EN’s 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. CBP believes the EN’s should always be consulted. See T.D. 89-80, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (Aug. 23, 1989).

The EN’s to heading 9503 provide guidance to the scope of the heading. Of particular importance is the description of the terms dolls and other toys. The EN’s explain that dolls are “designed for the amusement of children, but also… for use in Punch and Judy or marionette shows…” The Robothespian was not designed for the amusement of children or for use in puppet shows. The Robothespian is not a puppet, but is a robot that is designed for use in museums and science centers to explain scientific content and interact with museum patrons.

The EN to heading 9503, HTSUS, also indicates that toys are articles “intended essentially for the amusement of persons (children or adults)”. When an article is both amusing and functional we look to Ideal Toy Corp. v. United States, 78 Cust. Ct. 28, 33, C.D. 4688 (1977), where the Customs Court established that when amusement and utility become locked in controversy, the question becomes one of determining whether the amusement is incidental to the utilitarian purpose, or the utility purpose incidental to the amusement.

In applying those principles to this case, the Robothespian’s amusing characteristics are only incidental to its main purpose of educating museum patrons about robots and other museum exhibits. Engineered Arts Limited has stated in an email to us that they have focused this product for use solely in museums and science centers. Therefore, we find that the terms of heading 9503 are not met.

Next, we consider classification under heading 9508. Heading 9508 provides for “shooting galleries and other fairground amusements”. Goods that are classifiable in this heading are limited to use solely in fairground or amusement parks. There is no indication from the EN’s to this heading or the words of the heading itself that would imply that goods for use in museums are to be classified in this heading.

In this case, the Robothespian is designed to educate museum and science center visitors either through demonstrations of the capabilities of a robot or to provide information about robots and the museum itself. The Robothespian is not being used in amusement parks. Instead the robot is being used at the entrance of a museum to educate museum guests on the future and history of robotics. Therefore, we find that the terms of heading 9508 are not met.

Also, the Robothespian can be distinguished from the robots discussed in New York ruling (NY) B87575, July 15, 1997. Those robots were being imported for use in Disney theme parks such as Pirates of the Caribbean and the Hall of Presidents. The robots in these cases were designed solely for use in theme parks and not museums. As a result, the Disney robots were properly classifiable in heading 9508 because of their sole use in an amusement park. While there is an educational component to the robots used in the Hall of Presidents’ portion of the park they are still being used in amusement parks. In addition, after watching a video of the robots in the Hall of Presidents there is no indication that the robots interact with the audience. The function of the Robothespian in the U.S. will be to greet museum guests and explain to them information on robots. Therefore, the Robothespian cannot be classified in heading 9508 because it is being used for educational purposes in a museum. The Disney robots did have some educational qualities to them but they were still made for use in an amusement park.

The next heading that has been identified is heading 9023 which provides for, “Instruments, apparatus and models, designed for demonstrational purposes (for example, in education or exhibitions), unsuitable for other uses, and parts and accessories thereof.” The EN’s to Chapter 90 provide, “This Chapter covers a wide variety of instruments and apparatus which are, as a rule, characterized by their high finish and high precision.” The EN’s to heading 9023 provides “[t]his heading covers a wide range of instruments, apparatus and models designed for demonstrational purposes (e.g., in schools, lecture rooms, exhibitions)…” The HTSUS does not define the term demonstrational. Thus, we will look to the common meaning of the term. When a tariff term is not defined by the HTSUS or the legislative history, its correct meaning is its common, or commercial, meaning. Rocknel Fastener, Inc. v. United States, 267 F.3d 1354, 1356 (Fed. Cir. 2001). "To ascertain the common meaning of a term, a court may consult 'dictionaries, scientific authorities, and other reliable information sources' and 'lexicographic and other materials.'" Id. (quoting C.J. Tower & Sons of Buffalo, Inc. v. United States, 673 F.2d 1268, 1271, 69 C.C.P.A. 128 (C.C.P.A. 1982); Simod Am. Corp. v. United States, 872 F.2d 1572, 1576 (Fed. Cir. 1989)). The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Ed. (1989), defines the word demonstrate as “1. To point out, indicate; to exhibit, set forth”. 

In applying these principles to the present case, the Robothespian is an instrument or apparatus that is designed for demonstrational purposes and is unsuitable for other uses. As stated in the facts section, the Robothespian is used to greet museum guests and to give presentations on various topics related to robotics. According to the Oxford English Dictionary definition above, “demonstrate” is the action of pointing out or indicating something. The Robothespian is pointing out information about robotics generally. For instance, in your email to us on March 12, 2009, you stated the robot would make a presentation on the tasks that robots perform. The Robothespian is pointing out the various tasks that robots can perform. As a result, the Robothespian is designed for and is in fact carrying out demonstrational actions. The Robothespian also does not have any other uses besides its use in museums and science centers.

In addition, we would like to stress the importance of the distinction between this robot and the robots that are classifiable in heading 9508. The robots that are classifiable in 9508 are for use in amusement parks or fairgrounds only. They may have some minimal educational functions however; their principal function is to provide amusement for fairground or amusement park patrons.

Therefore, the Robothespian is properly classifiable under heading 9023.00.0000, as “Instruments, apparatus and models, designed for demonstrational purposes (for example, in education or exhibitions), unsuitable for other uses, and parts and accessories thereof.” By operation of Note 1(m) to Section XVI and Note 1(f) to Chapter 96 HTSUS, the Robothespian cannot be classified under headings 8479 or 9618 because both notes exclude Articles of Chapter 90.

Country of Origin:

In addition to your request for a binding ruling on the classification of the Robothespian, you also requested a binding ruling on the country of origin. Section 304 of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C. §1304), provides that unless excepted, every article of foreign origin imported into the United States shall be marked in a conspicuous place as legibly, indelibly, and permanently as the nature of the article (or its container) will permit, in such a manner as to indicate to the ultimate purchaser in the United States, the English name of the country of origin of the article. Congressional intent in enacting 19 U.S.C. §1304 was "that the ultimate purchaser should be able to know by an inspection of the marking on the imported goods the country of which the goods is the product. The evident purpose is to mark the goods so that at the time of purchase the ultimate purchaser may, by knowing where the goods were produced, be able to buy or refuse to buy them, if such marking should influence his will." United States v. Friedlander & Co., 27 C.C.P.A. 297 at 302; C.A.D. 104 (1940).

Part 134, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Regulations (19 C.F.R. §134) implements the country of origin marking requirements and exceptions of 19 U.S.C. §1304. Section 134.1(b), CBP Regulations (19 C.F.R. §134.1(b)), defines “country of origin” as:

[T]he country of manufacture, production, or growth of any article of foreign origin entering the United States. Further work or material added to an article in another country must effect a substantial transformation in order to render such other country the “country of origin” within the meaning of [the marking regulations]…

A substantial transformation is said to have occurred when an article emerges from a manufacturing process with a name, character, or use which differs from the original material subjected to the process. U.S. v. Gibson-Thomsen Co., Inc., 27 C.C.P.A. 267 (C.A.D. 98) (1940); Texas Instruments v. United States, 681 F.2d 778, 782 (CCPA 1982).

Applying these principles to the present case, we first note that the Robothespian and its component parts have undergone a change in name. The original parts which were pneumatic components such as air cylinders and valves, electric motors, the touch screen, the personal computer, etc., have now all been built into the robot and its control console. They are no longer their individual parts instead they are referred to as the completed robot.

Second, we note that the component parts have also changed their essential character to become the working parts of the whole robot. The essence of these parts has now transformed to become the working parts of the larger robotic exhibit.

Finally, there has been a change in use of all the component parts from the pneumatic devices which now act as the operating force behind the robots arms and finger movements. The electric motors are now used to move the robot’s head and elbows. Also, the computer has been programmed to act as the control unit for the entire robot. This program is installed in your facilities in the United Kingdom. Based on these factors, we find that the subject merchandise underwent a substantive transformation. Therefore, the country of origin for marking purposes is the United Kingdom.


By operation of GRI 1, the subject humanoid robot is classifiable under heading 9023, HTSUS. It is specifically provided for in subheading 9023.00.0000, HTSUS, which covers, “Instruments, apparatus and models, designed for demonstrational purposes (for example, in educational or exhibitions), unsuitable for other uses, and parts and accessories thereof…”. The column one, general rate of duty is free.

Duty rates are subject to change. The text of the most recent HTSUS and the accompanying duty rates are provided on the World Wide Web at

Because, the subject robot has been assembled in the United Kingdom it is a product of that country. Therefore, the markings required by 19 U.S.C. §1304 and 19 C.F.R. §134 must indicate that the product is a product of the United Kingdom. Finally, we would remind you that there was no sample product attached to this ruling request and therefore we do not make a determination as to the acceptability of the final marking. We are only indicating that for marking purposes the country of origin is the United Kingdom. For specific instructions on where to place your marking and the typeface required please see 19 U.S.C. §1304 and 19 C.F.R. §134.

A copy of this ruling letter should be attached to the entry documents filed at the time the goods are entered. If the documents have been filed without a copy, this ruling should be brought to the attention of the CBP officer handling the transaction.


Gail A. Hamill, Chief
Tariff Classification and Marking Branch