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Court Rules on Classification of Electronic Weather Display Devices

Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled July 25 that certain electronic devices used to measure and display atmospheric and weather conditions are classified as meteorological instruments and appliances under HTSUS 9015.80.80. U.S. Customs and Border Protection had classified these devices, which also display the time and date, as clocks under HTSUS 9105.91.40.

The devices at issue measure outdoor temperature, indoor temperature and/or humidity and display the measured information alongside the time and date. They include wireless instruments that measure outdoor conditions and base units containing instruments that measure indoor conditions. They also contain an LCD display, a barometer to measure air pressure and a microprocessor that analyzes historical barometric measurements to provide a weather forecast.

The CAFC rejects La Crosse’s argument that the goods as a whole are classifiable under heading 9015 because they have “significant timekeeping functions” that are not mentioned in that heading. Finding that the devices are therefore classifiable under two or more headings or subheadings, the court uses General Rule of Interpretation 3(b) to determine that the essential character of the devices is provided by their meteorological capabilities and specifically their forecasting features. The CAFC’s ruling overturns the CIT’s determination that the imprecise nature of the devices’ forecasting function lacks the character of meteorological equipment classifiable under HTSUS 9015.80.80, stating that this subheading does not require any particular level of precision.

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