CLA-2 CO:R:C:M 954638 MBR
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.
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?
LAW AND ANALYSIS:
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
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
(4) Lift indicators. These indicate, on an illuminated
board, where the lift is and whether it is going up or
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
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
John Durant, Director