Jennifer A. Renkosiak
E. Besler and Company
115 Marin Lane
Elk Grove Village, Illinois 60133

Re: Liquid Crystal Display (LCD); Calendar Unit

Dear Ms. Renkosiak:

This is in response to your request for a ruling on behalf of your client, Primex, Inc., addressed to the Assistant Port Director of Trade Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Chicago, Illinois, and which we received on October 23, 2006. Your request for a binding ruling on the classification of a “liquid crystal display calendar unit” under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) has been forwarded to this office. Our ruling on this matter is set forth below.


The liquid crystal display calendar unit (“LCDCU”) displays date information (month, day of the month, and year) that updates each day at 12:00 a.m. The LCDCU determines intervals of time by an internal clock function known as a microcontroller unit, but does not display the time of day, except when setting the time. The back of the LCDCU features a panel of four buttons marked “set”, “up”, “down”, and “reset.” The “set,” “up,” and “down” buttons allow a user to alternately program the month, day of the month, year, and time of day (hour and minute), and to select and deselect automatic “daylight savings time” adjustment. Pressing the “reset” button prompts the unit to display a default date, “1/1/2006”.

The LCDCU is made in China. It has a flat, rectangular shape, with an electronic panel display on the front. The housing of the LCDCU is black plastic. The LCDCU measures approximately 7-3/8 inches wide, 5-1/2 inches high, and 5/8 inches deep, and operates on two AA alkaline batteries. The LCDCU includes a sheet of instructions that explains battery-installation and programming of information.


Whether the LCDCU is classified as “calendars” under heading 4910, HTSUS, or “visual signaling apparatus” under heading 8531, HTSUS, or “liquid crystal devices” under heading 9013, HTSUS, or “other clocks” under heading 9105, HTSUS?


Merchandise is classifiable under the HTSUS in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). The systematic detail of the HTSUS is such that most goods are classified by application of GRI 1, that is, 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.

In understanding the language of the HTSUS, the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) may be utilized. The ENs, although not dispositive or legally binding, provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the HTSUS, and are the official interpretation of the Harmonized System at the international level. See T.D. 89-80, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (August 23, 1989).

The HTSUS provisions under consideration are as follows:

4910 Calendars of any kind, printed, including calendar blocks:… …

8531 Electric sound or visual signaling apparatus (for example, bells, sirens, indicator panels, burglar or fire alarms), other than those of heading 8512 or 8530; parts thereof:

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

8531.20.0020 Incorporating LCD’s …

9013 Liquid crystal devices not constituting articles provided for more specifically in other headings; lasers, other than laser diodes; other optical appliances and instruments, not specified or included elsewhere in this chapter; parts and accessories thereof: …

9105 Other clocks

The LCDCU is not a “printed” item, and, as such, may not be classified under heading 4910, HTSUS, as “calendars of any kind, printed, including calendar blocks:….” Explanatory Note 49.10 (EN 49.10, X-4910-1) emphasizes that the item must be “printed.”

Further, the LCDCU is not classifiable under heading 9105, HTSUS, as “wall clocks, electrically operated, with opto-electronic display only”. Although the LCDCU contains a “clock movement capable of determining intervals of time and an opto-electronic display”, the LCDCU does not display the time of day (except when setting the time), and cannot be used as a clock. Consistent with our position, Explanatory Note 91.05 (EN 91.05, XVIII-9105-1) provides that heading 9105 of the HTSUS covers:

[T]imekeepers, not classified elsewhere in the Chapter, essentially constructed for indicating the time of day….”

We are left to determine whether heading 8531 or 9013, HTSUS is the appropriate heading for the LCDCU. As indicated above, heading 8531, HTSUS, provides for “[e]lectric sound or visual signaling apparatus”, and heading 9031, HTSUS covers “[l]iquid crystal devices not constituting articles provided for more specifically in other headings”. The consistently stated general rule is that “unless a principal use for signaling (heading 8531, HTSUS)… can be established satisfactorily either by design limitation or other reliable means, liquid crystal displays are classifiable under heading 9013, HTSUS, as other liquid crystal devices not constituting articles provided for more specifically in other headings. See HQ 958836 (May 3, 1996), which cites HQ 951288 (July 7, 1992); HQ 952246 (November 10, 1992) (modified in HQ 952973 (August 5, 1993)); HQ 952502 (March 18, 1993); and HQ 954638 (December 2, 1993).

The ENs are supportive of the classification of the LCDCU under heading 8531, HTSUS (EN 85.31, XVI-8531-1). The ENs are fairly descriptive and restrictive as to the types of "signaling" indicator panels and the like, and what function they must perform in order to be classifiable in that provision. The ENs state: "[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. ...

In HQ 952973 (August 5, 1993), regarding the principal use of LCD’s, we held that LCD’s having 80 characters or less are restricted to “signaling functions” by virtue of their operational limitations. More recently, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, in affirming the decision of the Court of International Trade in Optrex America, Inc. v. United States, 427 F. Supp. 2d 1177, 2006 Ct. Intl. Trade; 475 F.3d 1367 (Fed. Cir. 2007), accorded the "80 character rule" some deference under Skidmore v. Swift & Co., 323 U.S. 134, 65 S. Ct. 161, 89 L. Ed. 124 (1944), as a reasonable interpretation. In the instant case, the LCDCU is limited by design and function to display 80 characters or less in order to signal the date. Therefore, the LCDCU is classifiable in heading 8531, HTSUS, as a “visual signaling apparatus”. See HQ 958836 (May 3, 1996). The LCDCU is 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". However, consistent with the terms of heading 9013, HTSUS, because the LCDCU is provided for more specifically in another heading (heading 8531, HTSUS), it is not classifiable in heading 9013, HTSUS. Accordingly, the LCDCU is classified in heading 8531, HTSUS. See HQ 954638 (December 2, 1993).


By application of GRI 1, the LCDCU is classified in heading 8531, HTSUS, specifically, subheading 8531.20.0020, HTSUSA, as: “Electric sound or visual signaling apparatus (for example,…indicator panels…), other than those of heading 8512 or 8530; parts thereof: Indicator panels incorporating liquid crystal devices (LCD’s)…: Incorporating LCD’s”. The column one, general rate of duty is “Free”.

Duty rates are provided for your convenience and are subject to change. The text of the most recent HTSUS and the accompanying duty rates are provided on the Internet at


Gail A. Hamill, Chief
Tariff Classification and Marking Branch