CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 961003 DWS

Port Director of Customs
610 S. Canal Street
Chicago, IL 60607-4523

RE: Protest 3901-97-101872; Dynamic Test Handlers

Dear Port Director:

The following is our decision regarding Protest 3901-97-101872 concerning your action in classifying and assessing duty on dynamic test handlers under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS).

After a meeting at Customs Headquarters with members of my staff on January 20, 1998, counsel for the protestant submitted a supplemental letter dated February 23, 1998, with additional information and arguments concerning the classification of the merchandise.


The merchandise consists of dynamic test handlers (handlers) (Model no. M6741A), each of which is a mechanical apparatus designed specifically to deliver and retrieve integrated circuits (ICs) to and from the test socket of an automatic integrated circuit test system (tester), which is designed to test the ICs. The handler is a complex system of mechanical and electronic components which, when properly integrated with a test system, enables the tester to achieve maximum productivity. The tester is incapable of transporting or sorting semiconductor devices, nor is the tester capable of altering the test environment. As initially designed, the tester requires hand placement of individual ICs at the test socket, a time-consuming and expensive method of device testing. Decreasing the time required to deliver ICs to and retrieve ICs from the tester is the most efficient way of achieving both reduced test time and test cost. Rapid transport of ICs is accomplished most efficiently by the addition of the handler to the tester configuration.

Each handler performs multiple functions. The handler first transfers ICs to be tested from the customer's tray to its own. This is the first opportunity for the handler to reject nonconforming ICs; ICs which do not meet specifications for shape and size are rejected at any stage in the process, and the handler generates a message enabling the operator to remove the IC. Elevators within the handler stack the IC trays.

The trays are then moved into a chamber within the handler, where the ICs are heated or cooled to a specified temperature. At this point, the handler can again reject ICs if the connection between the pin and the semiconductor materials is faulty. The handler then connects the ICs to be tested to the test socket. The test socket is part of the test head which is clamped onto the side of the handler, and the test sockets protrude into the handler itself. At this stage, it is the function of the handler to continue to maintain the test temperature, to apply the appropriate pressure to ensure the tray is situated properly in the test socket. The handler must also ensure that the connection is reliably positioned for stable testing. These functions help to eliminate stress on the ICs under test.

The handler communicates via electric signal with the tester when the ICs have been properly positioned. The handler advises the tester via electric signal where the ICs are, when the ICs are ready to be tested, and what test temperature will be maintained by the handler throughout the test. Once the tester has received the requisite confirmation from the handler that the ICs are ready for testing, the tester proceeds to test the devices. This is accomplished by sending signals from a separate stand-alone unit, through a sheaf of cables to the test head. The tester generates stimuli and measures feedback to determine whether the ICs under test can perform the functions for which they were designed. Following this test phase, the tester signals the handler. The handler then transports the tray to a separate soak chamber, designed to ensure that the devices do not sweat or otherwise become damaged

Once the tester has tested the ICs, it advises the handler where the ICs should be categorized in sorting. As testing of multiple ICs can be accomplished simultaneously, the tester can communicate multiple messages simultaneously, one for each IC under test. Responding to the messages from the tester, the handler sorts each IC, based upon performance, into one of several bins. The handler then loads successfully tested ICs into the customer's trays.

To perform the operations described, each handler utilizes sensors, amplifiers, and hydraulic equipment. During the entire process, the ICs under test do not physically leave the handler, and, at the end of the process, the handler can determine whether the ICs have been properly categorized.

The merchandise was entered on March 28, 1997, under subheading 9030.82.00, HTSUS, as other apparatus for measuring or checking semiconductor wafers or devices. The entries were liquidated on July 11, 1997, under subheading 9030.90.84, HTSUS, as accessories of apparatus of subheading 9030.82, HTSUS. The protest was timely filed on July 21, 1997.


Whether the handlers are classifiable under subheading 9030.82.00, HTSUS, as other apparatus for measuring or checking semiconductor wafers or devices, under subheading 9030.90.84, HTSUS, as accessories of apparatus of subheading 9030.82, HTSUS, under subheading 9031.41.00, HTSUS, as other optical checking instruments for inspecting semiconductor devices not specified elsewhere in chapter 90, HTSUS, or under subheading 9031.80.80, as other checking instruments not specified elsewhere in chapter 90, HTSUS.


Classification of merchandise under the HTSUS is in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's). GRI 1 provides that classification is determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes.

The 1997 HTSUS provisions under consideration are as follows:

9030 Oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers and other instruments and and apparatus for measuring or checking electrical quantities, excluding meters of heading 9028; instruments and apparatus for measuring or detecting alpha, beta, gamma, X-ray, cosmic or other ionizing radiations; parts and accessories thereof:

Other instruments and apparatus:

9030.82.00 For measuring or checking semiconductor wafers or devices.

9030.90 Parts and accessories:


9030.90.84 Of instruments and apparatus of subheading 9030.82.

* * * * * * * * *

9031 Measuring or checking instruments, appliances and machines, not specified or included elsewhere in this chapter; profile projectors; parts and accessories thereof:

Other optical instruments and appliances:

9031.41.00 For inspecting semiconductor wafers or devices or for inspecting photomasks or reticles used in manufacturing semiconductor devices.

9031.80 Other instruments, appliances and machines:

9031.80.80 Other.

* * * * * * * * *

In PD A81426, dated April 3, 1996, Customs held several models of dynamic test handlers (Model nos. M3741, M3821A/3841A, M4132A/4133A, M4152A, M4162A, M4622A, M6441A, M6841A, M6841D/6862D, and M6861A) to be classifiable under subheading 9030.90.85, HTSUS (the 1996 precursor to 1997 subheading 9030.90.84, HTSUS). Because the subject handler (Model no. M6741A) was not dealt with in that ruling, we will not reconsider PD A81426 at this time.

Section XVI, note 4, HTSUS, states that:

[w]here a machine (including a combination of machines) consists of individual components (whether separate or interconnected by piping, by transmission devices, by electric cables or by other devices) intended to contribute together to a clearly defined function covered by one of the headings in chapter 84 or chapter 85, then the whole falls to be classified in the heading appropriate to that function.

Chapter 90, note 3, HTSUS, states that:

[t]he provisions of note 4 to section XVI apply also to this chapter.

Counsel cites HQ 952297, dated July 30, 1993, and HQ 955151, dated January 5, 1994, in arguing that each handler is a part of a tester system, the components of which constitute a functional unit as defined in section XVI, note 4, HTSUS, and applied to the provisions of chapter 90, HTSUS, through chapter 90, note 3, HTSUS. Therefore, it is claimed that each handler, imported into the U.S. separately, constitutes an unfinished functional unit classifiable under subheading 9030.82.00, HTSUS. However, in both HQs 952297 and 955151, the merchandise involved consisted of complete systems which met the definition of a functional unit. In the instant case, the handler, imported without the remainder of the tester system, at best constitutes an unfinished functional unit. Because unfinished functional units are not recognized by any Legal or Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes, their components must be classified in the separate headings describing them. See HQ 087077, dated March 27, 1991.

Therefore, because the handlers do not meet the definition of a functional unit, they must be classifiable in the HTSUS provision which describes them. In HQ 952297, dated July 30, 1993, we stated that:

[t]he term "checking" is not defined in the HTSUS. A tariff term that is not defined in the HTSUS or in the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (EN) is construed in accordance with its common and commercial meaning. Nippon Kogasku (USA) Inc. v. United States, 69 CCPA 89, 673 F.2d 380 (1982). Common and commercial meaning may be determined by consulting dictionaries, lexicons, scientific authorities and other reliable sources. C.J. Tower & Sons v. United States, 69 CCPA 128, 673 F.2d 1268 (1982).

In United States v. Corning Glass Works, 66 CCPA 25,27, 586 F.2d 822, 825 (1978), the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals, quoting Webster's Third New International Dictionary, 381 (1971), stated:

"Check" is defined as "to inspect and ascertain the condition of especially in order to determine that the condition is satisfactory; *** investigate and insure accuracy, authenticity, reliability, safety, or satisfactory performance of ***; to investigate and make sure about conditions or circumstances ***."

We agree with the protestant that each handler performs a checking function, in that it inspects and ascertains the condition of the ICs throughout the testing process. An example of the checking function is the handler's ability to reject nonconforming ICs. Counsel states that ICs which do not meet specifications for shape and size are rejected by the handler at any stage in the process, and the handler generates a message enabling the operator to remove the IC.

However, counsel claims that the handlers check the ICs for electrical quantities. We disagree. It is our understanding that each handler checks the ICs for physical properties such as size and shape specifications. Although there is little information concerning the term "electrical quantities" in the HTSUS, it is our position that, based upon the information submitted by counsel for the protestant, the handlers do not qualify as an instrument for checking electrical quantities. Consequently, as the handlers do not meet the terms of heading 9030, HTSUS, they are precluded from classification under subheading 9030.82.00, HTSUS. See HQ 960051, dated December 22, 1997.

We will now determine whether the handlers are properly classifiable under subheading 9030.90.84, HTSUS, as accessories of the instruments of heading 9030, HTSUS. In HQ 952942, dated April 27, 1993, we stated that:

[a] part of an article, for tariff purposes, is a thing necessary to the completion of that article. It is an integral, constituent or component part, without which the article to which it is joined could not function as such article. An accessory, on the other hand, is something that is not essential in itself but adds to the effectiveness of something else. In each case, the nature, function, and purpose of an article must be examined in relation to the article to which it is attached or which it is designed to serve.

It is our position that the handlers, although adding to the effectiveness of the testers by creating an optimal test environment, are not accessories, as they are free-standing and independent units capable of performing a checking function without the aid of another machine. Therefore, the handlers are precluded from classification under subheading 9030.90.84, HTSUS.

Chapter 90, additional U.S. note 3, HTSUS, states that:

[f]or the purposes of this chapter, the terms "optical appliances" and "optical instruments" refer only to those appliances and instruments which incorporate one or more optical elements, but do not include any appliances or instruments in which the incorporated optical element or elements are solely for viewing a scale or for some other subsidiary purpose.

It is now our understanding from counsel that, although the subject handlers perform the described checking function, they do not possess the necessary optical elements allowing for classification under subheading 9031.41.00, HTSUS. Therefore, based upon the information presented to us by counsel, the handlers are precluded from classification therein.

Consequently, we find that, as the handlers, which perform a checking function, are not more specifically described elsewhere, they are classifiable under subheading 9031.80.80, HTSUS.


The dynamic test handlers are classifiable under subheading 9031.80.80, HTSUS, as other checking instruments for not specified elsewhere in chapter 90, HTSUS.

As the rate of duty under the classification indicated above is more than the liquidated rate, you should DENY the protest 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 the decision must be accomplished prior to mailing of this decision. Sixty days from the date of the decision the Office of Regulations and Rulings will take steps to make the decision available to Customs personnel via the Customs Rulings Module in ACS and the public via the Diskette Subscription Service, Freedom of Information Act, and other public access channels.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division