CLA-2 RR:CR:TE 963605 jb
Herbert J. Lynch, Esq.
Sullivan & Lynch, P.C.
156 State Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02109-2508
RE: Classification of printed reproductions of oil paintings/photographs
Dear Mr. Lynch:
This is in regard to your letter, dated May 25, 1999, on behalf of your client, Graphique de France, Inc., requesting classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA) for certain printed reproductions of oil paintings and photographs. Samples were submitted for examination.
The subject merchandise consists of printed reproductions of a photograph and a painting and is described as follows:
Referenced Item LP017, measuring 15-3/4 inches by 11-3/4 inches, is a mini-print image of a photograph titled “The Rock River” by the world-renowned photographer, Christine Triebert. “The Rock River” mini-print is produced on a high-quality coated paper known by the tradename perigord paper. The image is produced by the offset printing method.
Referenced Item Z460, measuring 39-3/8 inches by 27-1/2 inches, is a poster reproduction of the painting titled “Vase de Fleurs, Raisins et Peches” (1810) by Jan Van Dael, the original of which is currently on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. The poster is printed on high quality coated paper. The poster is produced by the offset printing method.
In your opinion the subject merchandise is the result of an “offset printing process” and is thus properly classified in subheading 4911.91.40, HTSUSA, in the provision for other printed matter. You ask that Customs confirm this classification.
What is the proper classification for the subject merchandise?
LAW AND ANALYSIS:
Classification of merchandise under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA) is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI). GRI 1 provides that classification be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes, taken in order. Merchandise that cannot be classified in accordance with GRI 1 is to be classified in accordance with subsequent GRI.
The subject merchandise is described as being the result of an “offset process.” Before we arrive at the proper classification for this merchandise one must first understand the relevant concepts. “Lithography” is defined in Webster’s Deluxe Unabridged Dictionary, 1979, at 1056, as:
the art or process of printing from a flat stone or metal plate by a method based on the repulsion between grease and water: the design is put on the surface with a greasy material, and then water and printing ink are successively applied; the greasy parts, which repel water, absorb the ink but the wet parts do not.
In Pocket Pal, A Graphic Arts Production Book, 1974, at 32, lithography is defined as:
Lithography uses the planographic method. The image and non-printing areas are essentially on the same plane of the surface of a thin metal plate, and the definition between them is maintained chemically. Printing is from a plane or flat surface, one which is neither raised nor depressed.
“Offset lithography” is defined in The Dictionary of Paper, 1980, at 288, as:
An adaptation of the principles of stone (or direct) lithography, in which the design is drawn or photographically reproduced upon a thin, flexible metal plate which is curved to fit a revolving cylinder. The design from this plate is transferred to or offset onto a rubber blanket carried upon another cylinder, which in turn transfers the design to the paper cloth, metal, etc.
The term “offset” is defined in the same source, at 287, as:
A technique in printing by which the ink images are transferred from the plate first to an intermediate rubber blanket and then to the material being printed. This technique, which
reduces plate wear and permits printing on rougher material, is most commonly associated with lithographic printing. For this reason, the word “offset” alone is sometimes used to indicate offset lithography.
In Pocket Pal, A Graphic Arts Production Book, 1974, at 32, in a discussion of “offset lithography”, it states:
Transferring the image from the plate to a rubber blanket before transfer to the paper is called the offset principle. Most lithography is printed in this way, and the term offset has become synonymous with lithography.
As such, we emphasize that a critical concept in the classification of this merchandise is the understanding, as reflected in the above definitions, that the term “offset method” of printing is in fact, used to indicate a particular type of lithography, or stated another way, an adaptation of lithography. In the case of the subject merchandise, that adaptation is “offset lithography”.
There is some confusion with respect to the classification of this merchandise in as far as how merchandise, described by the above referenced terms, is provided for under the tariff. In this respect, there are two headings which merit review. Heading 4911, HTSUS, provides for other printed matter including printed pictures and photographs. This heading includes pictures and photographs printed by lithography. Note 1(d) to chapter 49, HTSUS, states that this chapter does not cover “original engravings, prints or lithographs (heading 9702)....”
Heading 9702, HTSUS, provides for, among other things, original engravings, prints and lithographs. Note 2 to chapter 97, HTSUS, states:
For the purposes of heading 9702, the expression “original engravings, prints and lithographs” means impressions produced directly, in black and white or in color, of one or of several plates wholly executed by hand by the artist, irrespective of the process or of the material employed by him, but not including any mechanical or photomechanical process.
As discussed in the paragraphs that follow, one of the determinative factors in the classification of this merchandise is the way in which the image is transferred, either directly from the plate to the paper, without the use of a mechanical or photomechanical process, as in the case of the lithographs of heading 9702, HTSUS, or indirectly, and with the use of a mechanical or photochemical process, as is the case of the lithographs provided for under heading 4911, HTSUS.
We agree that the subject merchandise is not the result of the lithographic process provided for under heading 9702, HTSUS. The prints of heading 9702, HTSUS, are unique in that they are “original prints” produced directly by the artist, with a plate or stone created by him or her. The processing of these prints involves a direct transfer from the stone or plate to the paper by any means other than “mechanical or photomechanical process.” As such, although the subject samples are not lithographs as provided for under heading 9702, HTSUS, this does not in any way preclude their classification as lithographs as provided for under a different heading, that is to say, heading 4911, HTSUS.
Subheading 4911.91.20, HTSUSA, provides for lithographs on paper or paperboard which are the result of a lithographic process different from that provided for under heading 9702, HTSUS. Stated another way, the prints of subheading 4911.91.20, HTSUSA, are not produced directly by the artist via use of an original plate or stone, the transfer is a three step process from plate to intermediate blanket to paper, and the use of mechanical or photomechanical process is not excluded. In this case the word “offset” is used as an idiomatic term intended to refer to “lithographic offset process” which indicates an alternate printing process. As the subject merchandise is the result of such an offset process, it is properly provided for under subheading 4911.91.20, HTSUSA. See, e.g., NY 856467, dated September 28, 1990, which classified similar merchandise in subheading 4911.91.20, HTSUSA.
Accordingly, the subject merchandise is correctly classified in subheading 4911.91.20, HTSUSA.
The classification for this merchandise, when consisting of posters, is subheading 4911.91.2020, HTSUSA, which provides for other printed matter, including printed pictures and photographs: other: pictures, designs and photographs: printed not over 20 years at time of importation: other: lithographs on paper or paperboard: not over 0.51 mm in thickness: posters. The applicable general column one rate of duty is 6.6 cents/kg.
The classification for this merchandise, when consisting of other than posters, is subheading 4911.91.2040, HTSUSA, which provides for other printed matter, including printed pictures and photographs: other: pictures, designs and photographs: printed not over 20 years at time of importation: other: lithographs on paper or paperboard: not over 0.51 mm in thickness: other. The applicable general column one rate of duty is 6.6 cents/kg.
As the subject merchandise is classified in subheading 4911.91.20, HTSUS, and is a product of France, it is subject to the provisions of 9903.08.11, HTSUSA, which makes this merchandise dutiable at the rate of 100 percent ad valorem.
Due to the changeable nature of the statistical annotation (the ninth and tenth digits of the classification), your client should contact the local Customs office prior to importing the merchandise to determine the current applicability of any import restraints or requirements.
John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division