Court of International Trade Ruling Provides Tariff Relief for Cell Culture Bioreactors

A recent ruling from the U.S. Court of International Trade has the potential to reduce customs duties significantly for some biotechnology companies. In Applikon Biotechnology Inc. v. United States, 07-364 (Ct. Int’l Trade Dec. 12, 2011), the court changed the tariff classification of Cell Culture Bioreactors from heading 8419, “machinery…for the treatment of materials by a process involving a change of temperature”, to heading 8479, “machines…having individual functions, not specified or included elsewhere in this chapter; parts thereof.” The change resulted in a zero rate of duty instead of the 4.2% rate that had previously been imposed under the classification given by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”).

The court described Cell Culture Bioreactors as machines that act to maintain an aseptic and homogeneous environment in which to culture cells, especially bacteria, that are used to break down harmful substances. The cells are grown for use in various applications in research or process development, including the development of biopharmaceuticals.

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