Thk America, Inc. v. U.S., Slip Op. 97-34.

CourtU.S. Court of International Trade
Writing for the CourtTsoucalas
Citation960 F.Supp. 368
PartiesTHK AMERICA, INC., Plaintiff, v. UNITED STATES, Defendant.
Decision Date26 March 1997
Docket NumberSlip Op. 97-34.,Court No. 94-06-00350.
960 F.Supp. 368
THK AMERICA, INC., Plaintiff,
Slip Op. 97-34.
Court No. 94-06-00350.
United States Court of International Trade.
March 26, 1997.
Order Amending Judgment Order May 19, 1997.

Sonnenberg & Anderson (Steven P. Sonnenberg and Jacqueline M. Paez, Chicago, IL), for plaintiff.

Frank W. Hunger, Assistant Attorney General, Washington, DC; Joseph I. Liebman, Attorney-in-Charge, New York City, International Trade Field Office, Commercial Litigation Branch, Civil Division, United States Department of Justice (Saul Davis, Senior Trial Attorney), for defendant.

Page 369


TSOUCALAS, Senior Judge.

Plaintiff, THK America, Inc. ("THK"), challenges the United States Customs Service's ("Customs") classification of its import linear motion guides ("LMGs") as other ball bearings under 8482.10.50 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States ("HTSUS") and its import LMG parts as other ball bearing parts under HTSUS 8482.99.10. THK contends its imports are properly classified as housed bearings under HTSUS 8483.20.80 and as parts of bearing housings under HTSUS 8483.90.30 or, in the alternative, as ball bearings with integral shafts under HTSUS 8482.10.10. Customs counterclaims that certain parts of LMGs were improperly classified upon importation under HTSUS 8485.90.00. The Court has jurisdiction over this matter under 28 U.S.C. § 1581(a), 28 U.S.C. § 1583 and 19 U.S.C. § 1514(a).


THK's LMGs consist of two main components, one or more steel blocks and a matching "T-shaped" rail. Each block contains four rows of circulating steel balls, a retainer, plastic end plates, rubber seals and a grease nipple, and moves in a linear fashion along the rail while supporting a load. The rail, which has four longitudinal grooves ground along its upper portion, varies in length depending on the LMG's intended application. Mounting holes are drilled into the LMG blocks and the LMG rail.

In THK America, Inc. v. United States, 17 CIT 1169, 837 F.Supp. 427 (1993), the Court concluded that THK's LMGs were properly classified as other ball bearings under HTSUS 8482.10.50, and not, as THK contended, as other machinery parts under HTSUS 8485.90.00. Upon determining that there was no clear Congressional intent as to the meaning of the tariff term ball bearing, the Court had to construe the term according to its current common and commercial meaning. See id. at 1174, 837 F.Supp. at 432. The Court therefore consulted the American National Standard AFBMA Standard Terminology for Antifriction Bearings and Parts, THK's own pre-1986 catalogs and advertisements, and the relevant HTSUS Explanatory Note, concluding that the tariff term ball bearing was meant to include THK's LMGs. Id.

THK concedes that the Court's decision was technically correct with the evidence presented at the previous trial. However, THK now advances an entirely new claim, contending that it has become aware of certain technical points mandating a different result. In particular, THK claims that because its LMGs are "preloaded," they are not ball bearings but, instead, have the structure and function of housed bearings. Trial was held on this issue on October 29, 1996. At trial, THK voluntarily dismissed its alternative cause of action, which alleged its LMGs were properly classified as ball bearings with integral shafts. Tr. 4.

Customs classified the LMGs at issue as other ball bearings and parts thereof under the following HTSUS heading:

 8482 Ball or roller bearings, and parts thereof:
                 8482.10 Ball bearings:
                 * * *
                 8482.10.50 Other ................................ 11%
                 * * *
                 8482.99 Other:
                 8482.99.10 Parts of ball bearings ................ 11%

THK contends that this classification is incorrect and alleges the LMGs are properly classified as housed bearings and parts thereof under the following HTSUS heading:

Page 370

 8483 Transmission shafts (including camshafts and crankshafts) and cranks;
                 bearing housings; housed bearings and plain shaft bearings;...; parts
                 * * *
                 8483.20 Housed bearings, incorporating ball or roller bearings:
                 * * *
                 8483.20.80 Other ................................................. 5.7%
                 * * *
                 8483.90 Parts:
                 * * *
                 8483.90.10 ....
                 Parts of bearing housings and plain shaft bearings:
                 * * *
                 8483.90.30 Other ................................................ 5.7%

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2639(a)(1) (1994), Customs' tariff classifications are presumed correct and the burden of proving that the assigned classification is erroneous is on the challenging party. See, e.g., Nippon Kogaku (USA), Inc. v. United States, 69 C.C.P.A. 89, 92, 673 F.2d 380, 382 (1982). To determine whether the challenging party has overcome the statutory presumption of correctness, the Court must consider whether "the government's classification is correct, both independently and in comparison with the importer's alternative." Jarvis Clark Co. v. United States, 733 F.2d 873, 878 (Fed.Cir.1984).

In the absence of legislative intent or a proven commercial definition of a tariff term, the Court must construe a tariff term in accordance with its common and commercial meaning. See Lynteq, Inc. v. United States, 976 F.2d 693, 697 (Fed.Cir.1992). In determining such a meaning, the Court may rely on its own understanding of the term and consult lexicographic and scientific authorities, as well as other reliable sources, including the testimony of expert witnesses. See Brookside Veneers, Ltd. v. United States, 847 F.2d 786, 789 (Fed.Cir.), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 943, 109 S.Ct. 369, 102 L.Ed.2d 358 (1988). Expert witness testimony "may properly be considered simply as advisory and as aiding the memory and understanding of the court, and it is not binding and may be accepted or rejected as appears proper." Marubeni Am. Corp. v. United States, 20 CIT ___, ___, 915 F.Supp. 413, 417 (1996) (citing Tropical Craft Corp. v. United States, 45 C.C.P.A. 59, C.A.D. 673, 1958 WL 7363 (1958)).

THK contends its LMGs are housed units containing ball bearings that are designed for accurate positioning through optimized friction and rigidity created by preloading. According to the testimony of Dr. Ali A. Seireg, an expert in machine design, lubrication and all types of bearings, a typical ball bearing, which is a type of antifriction bearing, is designed with clearance and is not preloaded.1 See Tr. 34-37. Because of the ball bearing structure, its function is to minimize friction by rolling along tracks carrying loads and guiding motion. Tr. 40. In contrast, LMGs are not anti friction bearings but, rather, generate friction for control and positioning through preloading. Tr. 33-34, 40-41. Indeed, Dr. Seireg testified that preloading the LMG, particularly with its gothic arc construction, causes the balls to actually slide, drastically increasing friction. Tr. 41-42. Hence, Dr. Seireg maintains, the pressure created by preloading the LMGs produces

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the friction and rigidity necessary for precise positioning control, as well as the repeatability of accurate positioning. See Tr. 40-43. Ball bearings cannot achieve this precise positioning and repeatability because they have clearance. Tr. 40-43.

Dr. Seireg concedes that all types of ball bearings may be preloaded. Tr. 66-68. Nevertheless, once preloading occurs, the function of the bearing changes and such bearings are no longer ball bearings, but preloaded bearings. See Tr. 70. Hence, Dr. Seireg asserts, a preloaded LMG could be referred to properly as a linear motion ball bearing unit or system, but not simply as a ball bearing. Tr. 32, 69-70.

THK claims this new evidence regarding preloading precludes classification of LMGs as ball bearings and the LMGs' structure and function compels their classification as housed bearings. With respect to the characteristics of...

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