Port Director, San Diego
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
610 W. Ash Street Suite 1005 San Diego, CA 92101

RE: Application for Further Review of Protest No. 2506-10-100041; LED drivers

Dear Port Director:

This is in response to an Application for Further Review (AFR) of Protest No. 2506-10-100041, made on behalf of Philips Lighting Electronics, North America (hereinafter “Protestant“) against the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) decision under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) on the classification of light emitting diode (LED) drivers. The subject devices are identified as “Xitanium LED Drivers” for 12 volt (V) and 24V direct current (DC) LED systems.


According to Protestant, the subject drivers are designed to tolerate sustained open circuits and short circuit output conditions while delivering constant current to high power LEDs and to prevent transients of current from damaging the LEDs. The drivers dissipate power in delivering that constant current to connected LEDs, which causes the case temperatures of the drivers to rise. Whenever the case temperatures of the drivers exceed a specified thermal protection standard, the drivers reduce output power to connected LEDs.

The drivers achieve this by converting 120 – 277 volts of alternating current (AC) to varying voltage levels of DC. The DC voltage levels depend upon the desired output current and the number of LEDs used in the load. The output power provided by the drivers is specified on the product labels and ranges from 12 watts to 150 watts (depending upon the model.

Protestant has supplied the following representative mechanical drawing of the drivers as imported (appearing inside of the dotted lines). When imported, the drivers are not connected to electrical power sources or to an LED array:

The functions of the illustrated components are as follows:

EMI (electromagnetic interference) Filter and Rectifier: The EMI filter consists of a network of inductors and capacitors that limit the high frequency components injected into input line. The rectifier stage converts the AC line input into a rectified sinusoidal waveform. This rectification is necessary to create a constant DC voltage via the boost power circuit.

Boost Power Circuit: The boost power circuit converts the rectified sinusoidal waveform to a fixed, regulated DC voltage. In addition, the boost power circuit also ensures that the current drawn from the rectifier stage is in phase with the voltage. This ensures that the driver operates close to unity power factor. A power factor correction controller is used to control the switches of the boost converter to achieve the aforementioned two functions.

PWM (pulse width modulation) Half-Bridge Power Stage and Output EMI Filter: The PWM half-bridge power stage converts the DC voltage (from the boost power circuit output) to a high-frequency pulsating signal. The width of the pulses are determined by the PWM half-bridge control stage based on the feedback from the output current control, output voltage control and the module temperature control stages. The high-frequency pulsating signal is fed to the primary side of an isolation transformer. The secondary signal is rectified and passed through a high-frequency filter to obtain the desired direct current for the LED loads.

Output Current Control; Output Voltage Control; Module Temperature Control: This block provides a feedback signal to the half-bridge PWM controller to regulate the output current or voltage of the LED electronic driver to a certain value. The selection of which control loop dominates over the other depends on the operating condition of the LED load.

Viper Power Supply: This block provides a regulated voltage to the boost power circuit and the PWM half-bridge stages.

Fan Power Supply: This block provides a regulated voltage to the fan on the LED module. Under normal operation, the fan power supply is disabled. When the temperature of the LED module exceeds a certain threshold, the fan power supply is turned on.

Dimming Interface: This block provides an interface between the dimming signal and the output current controller of the LED driver. Based on the dimming signal, the current reference is adjusted to provide the desired output current. The drivers were entered on February 3, 2010, and liquidated on April 16, 2010, under subheading 8504.40.95, HTSUS, which provides for “Static converters: Other.” Protestant claims that the proper classification of the devices is either subheading 8541.50.00 or subheading 8541.90.00, HTSUS, which provide for “Other semiconductor devices,” and “Other semiconductor devices: Parts,” respectively. The subject protest was filed on July 21, 2010.


Whether the merchandise is classified under subheading 8504.40.95, HTSUS, as rectifiers; subheading 8541.50.00, HTSUS, which provides for other semiconductor devices; or subheading 8541.90.00, HTSUS, as parts of other semiconductor devices.


Initially, we note that this matter is protestable under 19 U.S.C. §1514(a)(2) as a decision on classification and duty assessment. The entry was liquidated on April 16, 2010, and the protest was filed on July 21, 2010 – thus the protest was timely filed pursuant to 19 U.S.C. 1514(c)(3)(B). Further review is properly accorded to the protest pursuant to 19 C.F.R. § 174.24(a). Specifically, Protestant alleges that the decision against which the protest was filed is inconsistent with prior rulings issued by the Commissioner of CBP, or his designee.

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 based on 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 addition, in interpreting the HTSUS, the Explanatory Notes (ENs) of the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System may be utilized.  The ENs, although neither dispositive nor legally binding, provide a commentary on the scope of each heading, and are generally indicative of the proper interpretation of the HTSUS. See T.D. 8980, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127 (August 23, 1989).

The HTSUS (2010) provisions under consideration in this case are as follows:

8504 Electrical transformers, static converters (for example, rectifiers) and inductors; parts thereof: * * * 8504.40 Static converters: * * * 8504.40.95 Other. * * * * 8541 Diodes, transistors and similar semiconductor devices; photosensitive semiconductor devices, including photovoltaic cells whether or not assembled in modules or made up into panels; light-emitting diodes; mounted piezoelectric crystals; parts thereof: * * * 8541.50.00 Other semiconductor devices * * * 8541.90.00 Parts. * * * *

Legal Note 2 to Chapter 85, HTSUS, states that “[h]eadings 8501 to 8504 do not apply to goods described in heading 8541 [among others].” Legal Note 8 to that same chapter states that “[f]or the classification of [diodes, transistors and similar semiconductor devices], headings 8541 and 8542 shall take precedence over any other heading in the Nomenclature, except in the case of heading 8523, which might cover them by reference to, in particular, their function.” Furthermore, Legal Note 2 to Section XVI states the following, in pertinent part:

Subject to Note 1 to this Section … parts of machines … are to be classified according to the following rules:

(a) Parts, which are goods included in any of the headings of Chapter 84 or Chapter 85 … are in all cases to be classified in their respective headings.

(b) Other parts, if suitable for use solely or principally with a particular kind of machine, or with a number of machines of the same heading … are to be classified with the machines of that kind …

Finally, EN 85.04(II) states that heading 8504, HTSUS, includes rectifiers, by which alternating current (single or polyphase) is converted to direct current, generally accompanied by a voltage change, and EN 85.04 (Parts) advises the following:

Subject to the general provisions regarding the classification of parts (see the General Explanatory Note to Section XVI), parts of goods of this heading are also classified here …

However, most of the electrical components of the devices of this heading are to be found in other headings of the Chapter, for example:

… (c) Semiconductor diodes, transistors, and thyristors (heading 85.41)”

In ABB Power Transmission v. United States, 896 F.Supp. 1279, 29 C.I.T. 1044 (August 4, 1995), the Court of International Trade considered a thyristor module consisting of six thyristors connected in a series, heatsinks, voltage divider circuits and electronic “firing” circuitry mounted on a frame, was classified under heading 8541, HTSUS. The modules were designed to allow the flow of electrical current in one direction and therefore had rectifying capabilities. After importation, the modules were used in HVDC conversion stations to invert DC electricity to AC electricity or to rectify AC electricity to DC electricity.

As imported, the modules could not rectify or convert current. In deciding that the modules were classifiable as “other similar semiconductor devices” under subheading 8541.30.00, HTSUS, the court noted that although the modules contained a significant number of components present in addition to thyristors, those components contributed to the clearly defined function of the module’s thyristors as similar semiconductor devices (allowing current to pass in one direction when a controlled pulse initiates conductivity). In accordance with that holding, in HQ 960323, dated May 5, 1997, CBP reclassified bridge rectifier diodes (BRDs) in heading 8541, HTSUS, as well, based upon their functionality as diodes. In light of ABB Power Transmission, we must determine the main function of the subject drivers, i.e., do the components of the drivers “contribute together to a clearly defined function covered by one of the headings in Chapter 84 or 85 ….” Id. at 1283, 1048 (citing EN(4) to Section XVI).

Here, a subject driver contains an EMI and rectifier that convert incoming AC into a rectified sinusoidal waveform. The Boost Power Circuit then converts the rectified sinusoidal waveform to a fixed, regulated DC voltage. The PWM half-bridge power stage and the output EMI filter convert the DC voltage (from the boost power circuit output) to a high-frequency pulsating signal. The widths of the pulses are determined by the PWM half-bridge control stage. The high-frequency pulsating signal is fed to the primary side of an isolation transformer. The secondary signal is rectified and passed through a high-frequency filter to obtain the desired voltage/current for the LED loads. All of these functions act in concert to rectify the incoming alternating current to an outgoing direct current that powers the LEDs. In our opinion, the drivers fall squarely within subheading 8504, HTSUS, as rectifiers.

Protestant asserts that the drivers are not rectifiers because the bridges in the instant drivers are substantially similar in function to the BRDs of HQ 960323 and the thyristor modules of ABB Power Transmission because the subject drivers “generally rectify auxiliary output by converting DC voltage to a high frequency pulsating signal,” and “the sole purpose of a rectifier [classifiable under heading 8504, HTSUS] is to convert AC to DC.” See Protestant’s March 7, 2011, submission at page 2. Protestant states that the devices are instead classifiable as semiconductor devices under 8541, HTSUS. We disagree.

Legal Note 8(a) to Chapter 85, HTSUS, defines “diodes, transistors and similar semiconductor devices” as devices the operation of which depends on variations in resistivity of the application of an electric field.” Protestant posits that while the term “resistivity” is not defined in the HTS, resistivity is “the power or property of resistance” and “electrical resistance measured as a function of a given volume or area.” See Attachment A to Protestant’s AFR, citing Random House Webster’s College Dictionary, 2nd Ed. (1997); see also http:/ (cited by Protestant) (resistivity can generally be stated as the ratio of the voltage difference across an object/substance to the current flowing through it.) However, the discrete conversion of DC voltage to a high frequency pulsating signal within the drivers is not the subject drivers’ main function. The drivers convert incoming alternating current to direct current before that direct current is then converted to the high frequency pulsating signal – a signal that itself is then rectified to a DC output. The conversion of DC electricity to the pulsating signal is merely an intermediate step in the drivers’ overall function of rectifying AC electricity to DC electricity. That the drivers contain apparatus that regulates voltage of the emerging DC electricity does not alter the fact that the main function of the drivers is to rectify incoming AC electricity to a desired output of DC electricity that is ultimately delivered to the LEDs.

Protestant also cites HQ H084604, dated May 3, 2010, in support of its position. In that ruling, CBP reconsidered the classification of a solar module containing, among other things, bypass diodes to protect it from overheating by controlling the direction of the supplied electric current that flowed through the module. We had incorrectly classified the module under heading 8501, HTSUS, as an electrical generator because we believed that its bypass diodes placed it beyond the scope of heading 8541, per an incomplete reading of EN 85.41(B)(2)(i) (“[heading 8541] does not cover panels or

modules equipped with elements, however simple (for example, diodes to control the direction of the current) …”). However, HQ H084604 correctly noted that the “elements” described by the preclusion of EN 85.41(B)(2)(i) must also “supply power directly to an external load, such as a motor, an electrolyser (heading 8541).” Therefore, CBP reclassified the solar modules under 8541, HTSUS, because the module’s diodes merely controlled the direction of current and did not supply power to the module.

Protestant asserts that although the instant drivers contain a large number of components, none of those components supply power directly to an external load and, therefore, the drivers are similar in function to the solar modules of HQ H080604 and should also be classified in heading 8541, HTSUS. However, as discussed above, the subject drivers act to rectify AC electricity to DC electricity and that functionality is specifically covered by heading 8504, HTSUS, and not by any provision of heading 8541, HTSUS. Finally, Protestant cites to New York Ruling Letter (“NY”) E89000, dated December 22, 1999, in which CBP considered a device identified as the “Frosty Super Bright Red LED lamp.” It is described by Protestant as containing a capacitor, a varistor, lead wires, a silicon insulation sleeve, PC board, body, swivel socket, adapter and candelabra, with an LED array protruding from the housing containing the electrical components. CBP classified the device under subheading 8541.40, HTSUS, as an LED. Drawing upon that ruling, Protestant asserts that the presence of “semiconductor components” in the drivers reveals a significant similarity between the drivers and the device of NY E89000 that compels the classification of the drivers under heading 8541, HTSUS. The semiconductor components are described by Protestant as lead wires and capacitors.

The comparison to the device considered in NY E89000 is inapposite. The function of the subject drivers is to rectify electricity and they are not imported with LED arrays. They are clearly not similar to the device of NY E89000.

In summary, heading 8541, HTSUS, does not describe the drivers and the drivers are included eo nomine in heading 8504, HTSUS, as static converters. In particular, the drivers are classifiable in subheading 8504.40.95, HTSUS, which provides for “Electrical transformers, static converters (for example, rectifiers) and inductors; parts thereof: Static converters: Other.” HOLDING:

Pursuant to GRI 1, the LED drivers are classifiable under subheading 8504.40.95, HTSUS, which provides for “Electrical transformers, static converters (for example, rectifiers) and inductors; parts thereof: Static converters: Other.” The column one, general rate of duty at the time of entry was 1.5%. You are instructed to DENY the protest. In accordance with Sections IV and VI of the CBP Protest/Petition Processing Handbook (HB 3500-08A, December 2007, pp. 24 and 26), you are to mail this decision, together with the CBP Form 19, to the protestant no later than 60 days from the date of this letter. Any reliquidation of the entry or entries in accordance with the decision must be accomplished prior to mailing the decision. Sixty days from the date of the decision, the Office International Trade, Regulations and Rulings, will make the decision available to CBP personnel, and to the public on the CBP website located at, by means of the Freedom of Information Act, and other methods of public distribution.


Myles B. Harmon, Director
Commercial and Trade Facilitation Division