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Belimo Automation A.G. v. United States

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

December 19, 2014

BELIMO AUTOMATION A.G., Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
UNITED STATES, Defendant-Appellee

Appeal from the United States Court of International. Trade in No. 10-CV-0113, Judge Mark A. Barnett.

ROBERT B. SILVERMAN, Grunfeld, Desiderio, Lebowitz, Silverman & Klestadt LLP, of New York, New York, argued for plaintiff-appellant. With him on the brief were PETER W. KLESTADT and ROBERT F. SEELY.

AMY M. RUBIN, Assistant Director, Commercial Litigation Branch, Civil Division, United States Department of Justice, of New York, New York, argued for defendant-appellee. With her on the brief were STUART F. DELERY, Assistant Attorney General and JEANNE E. DAVIDSON, Director, of Washington, DC. Of counsel on the brief was MICHAEL W. HEYDRICH, Office of Assistant Chief Counsel, United States Customs and Border Protection, of New York, New York.

Before PROST, Chief Judge, NEWMAN and TARANTO, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 1363

Prost, Chief Judge.

Belimo appeals from the Court of International Trade's classification of Belimo's imports as " electric motors" under subheading 8501.10.40 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (" HTSUS" ). Belimo argues that the subject imports should have been classified as " automatic regulating and controlling instruments and apparatus; parts and accessories thereof" under HTSUS 9032.89.60. Because we agree with the Court of International Trade that Belimo's imports are not designed to measure either temperature or a variable of liquids or gases, as is required by HTSUS 9032.89.60, we affirm.

Background

Belimo's imported devices consist of an electric motor, gears, and two printed circuit boards, and are principally used in heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (" HVAC" ) systems within buildings. Belimo Automation A.G. v. United States, 35 ITRD 2319, 2013 WL 6439119, at *1 (Ct. Int'l Trade 2013) (" Opinion " ). HVAC systems work by pumping cold or hot air into a room. The HVAC system's sensors detect the ambient temperature in a given space, and send information to a central controller, which compares the actual temperature values to the user's desired temperature values. Next, the central controller sends a signal to the actuators, electric motors that adjust the angle of a damper blade to let in more or less hot or cold air.

In a traditional HVAC system, the actuator receives the signal from the central controller and moves the damper blade to the position indicated by the controller. However, if a disturbance such as a strong draft moves the damper blade, it may become stuck in the incorrect position. Belimo's products are similar to a traditional actuator, but represent an improvement in that they incorporate a programmed Application Specific Integrated Circuit (" ASIC" ). The ASIC's purpose is to continuously and independently monitor the damper blade's position, and maintain it at the correct angle without any input from the central controller. The ASIC accomplishes this by monitoring the behavior of the electric motor that moves the damper blade.[1]

The ASIC operates independently from the central controller and can detect unintended changes in damper blade position; this allows it to better maintain the blade's position against disturbances. The ASIC performs other independent functions: it can adapt to receive an AC or DC signal from the controller, filter out unintended electric signals, and use stored energy to prevent the motor from spinning out of control in the event of a power failure.

Page 1364

Opinion, 2013 WL 6439119, at *8; Appellant's Br. 14 (agreeing with the Court of International Trade's factual recitation).

The subject imports entered the United States between February 9, 2007 and February 26, 2007. U.S. Customs and Border Protection liquidated them between December 21, 2007 and January 11, 2008 under HTSUS 8501.10.40. Belimo timely filed a request protesting this classification decision on June 17, 2008. On September 18, 2009, Customs denied the request. HQ H044560 (Sept. 18, 2009). Belimo challenged the denial of its request at the Court of International Trade, claiming that the products should have been classified ...


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