CLA-2 CO:R:C:G 088540 KWM

TARIFF: 6307.90.9490

Ms. Karen J. Hiatt, Regional Director
Commercial Operations Division
Pacific Region
United States Customs Service
Suite 534
One World Trade Center

RE: Weightlifting belts; Sports equipment; Wearing apparel; Clothing accessories; Belts; Other made up articles.

Dear Ms. Hiatt:

This protest was filed in response to your classification of weightlifting belts in entry number 989-0027757-9 on November 19, 1990. The goods were manufactured and shipped from Taiwan for entry through the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach. For the reasons below, we find that the protest should be denied in part and allowed in part.


The merchandise at issue is described as a weightlifting belt. It is 4 inches in width and approximately 40 inches in length. The bulk of the belt is made of a stiff material, presumably a foam rubber, to which is attached a nylon webbing strip for securing around the waist. The belt is worn for support for the lower back while engaged in activities requiring heavy lifting. The importer asserts, and we have no reason to dispute, that the belt is designed solely to provide support to the weight bearing portion of the back. The importer also asserts that the belt has no function other than as a weight lifting belt. We believe that other uses may exist, and that the belt could be used in other situations (both athletic and non- athletic) where lower back support is required. Such uses may, however, be considered fugitive.

At the time of entry, your office classified the merchandise as belts of Chapter 61 or 62, HTSUSA, depending on the construction of the items. That classification resulted in the denial of entry due to quota restrictions. The importer asserts that the belts should be classified as sports equipment of Chapter 95, HTSUSA, or as other made up articles of Chapter 63, HTSUSA. Under either of the importer's proposed classifications, the articles would be allowed entry.


Are the weightlifting belts considered sports equipment of Chapter 95, HTSUSA?

If not, are they belts classifiable in Chapter 61 or 62, HTSUSA?

Finally, if neither of the above classifications is correct, how should the belts be classified?


Counsel for the importer notes that "similar" belts were the subject of a binding Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 081246, dated September 12, 1988. However, that ruling was binding only under the Tariff Schedules of the United States (TSUS). The last paragraph of HRL 081246 reads:

This classification [subheading 9506.91.0030, HTSUSA] represents the present position of the Customs Service regarding the dutiable status of the merchandise under the proposed HTSUSA. If there are changes before enactment this advice may not continue to be applicable.

HTSUSA classification in correspondence such as HRL 081246 was intended to be advisory only. Since the enactment of the new tariff schedule, Customs has determined through their implementation that merchandise such as this is not classifiable in heading 9506, HTSUSA. HRL 081246 is not relevant in this case.

Counsel for the importer also notes the classification ruling provided in HRL 083267, for merchandise referred to as a "conditioning belt." We do not have the article at issue in HRL 083267 before us, and we hesitate to review that classification in consideration of this application for further review. The classification in that case was or may have been based on specific factors unique to the product, and we do not believe it should be influential here.

Other than the 'precedent' of HRL 081246, counsel for the importer also argues that the weightlifting belt at issue should be classified as sports equipment because it falls within the terms of the heading. Specifically, they (the belts) permit the user to safely, efficiently and confidently engage in the sport or activity of weight lifting. We do not agree.

An examination of the items specifically provided for under heading 9506, HTSUSA, indicates that the equipment provided for does not include articles such as the weightlifting belt: skis (for either snow or water), surf boards, skates, balls, rackets, or golf clubs. These items are appliances or apparatus for use while engaged in the sport. Most are a type of 'hardware' required by a participant; a physical necessity for the sport. Customs has included within the heading protective equipment worn on the person while engaged in a particular sport, such as fencing masks or equestrian body protectors. The instant articles are more akin to a textile clothing accessory than protective equipment. Moreover, while a belt may be worn for increased comfort while lifting weights, it is by no means a necessity. We continue to be of the opinion that a distinction exists among the headings of the nomenclature between clothing and accessories (including protective clothing) and protective equipment.

As an alternative to classification as sports equipment, counsel for the importer proposes that the goods be classified as other made up textile articles. In support of that argument, counsel distinguishes between belts of headings 6117 or 6217, HTSUSA, and other belts mentioned in the Explanatory Notes to heading 6307, HTSUSA. The essence of the argument is that this merchandise is not an accessory to clothing and that it does not possess the character of the belts classified in headings 6117 or 6217, HTSUSA. We agree.

We find no Legal Notes to Section XI, HTSUSA, which would influence the classification of these goods. The suggested alternative heading, 6307, HTSUSA, provides for other made up textile articles. It is a "basket" heading in that it serves to classify merchandise not provided for more specifically in other headings of the nomenclature. Therefore, we must first determine whether the merchandise is included under the terms of heading 6117 or 6217, HTSUSA; if they are not, then we will address their classification under heading 6307, HTSUSA.

An accessory is generally understood to mean an article which is not necessary to enable the goods with which they are used to fulfill their intended function. There is no requirement that accessories exhibit a reliance or dependance on the primary article(s). Accessories must be related to, or exhibit some connection to the primary article, and must be intended for use solely or principally as an accessory. For example belts used as clothing accessories need not rely or depend on a particular article of clothing. Fashionable belt accessories may be worn with different articles and may take several forms (scarves, sashes, leather belts, etc.); they are often used for adornment or to compliment clothing. However, they must clearly be intended for use solely or principally as an accessory to clothing; belts used solely or principally for other purposes would not be classified here.

The Explanatory Notes to heading 6217, HTSUSA, indicate that "belts of all kinds . . . " are included in the heading. While the Explanatory Notes are not binding on the Customs Service, they are instructive. In this case, we agree that the heading will include belts of all kinds, provided that they may also be properly considered to be "clothing accessories" as the legal terms of the heading require.

In the opinion of this office, the instant belts are not clothing accessories. They are used principally for other purposes. They do not exhibit the relationship with clothing necessary to be considered accessories to clothing; they do not adorn or accent clothing nor can they be threaded through belt loops on trousers. The principal use for this merchandise is as a protective artilce for use while participating in weight lifting activities, as evidenced by the design. The items do not function as accessories. They are therefore excluded from classification in heading 6217.

Heading 6307, HTSUSA, provides for numerous miscellaneous made up articles not specifically provided for elsewhere in the nomenclature. The Explanatory Notes to heading 6307, HTSUSA, provide that the heading may include "belts, which although worn around the waist, do not have the character of belts of heading 62.17, . . .." This describes the merchandise at issue. As noted above, the instant belts do not have the character of accessories. They are known as belts only because they are worn around the waist. The Explanatory Notes to heading 6307 substantiate our rationale above that items such as these are not accessories to clothing. Once excluded from the accessory provision, the nomenclature anticipates that these items may fall within the provisions for other made up textile articles.


The protest is denied with regard to classification of the merchandise as sports equipment of heading 9506, HTSUSA. The protest is allowed with regard to classification as other made up textile articles of heading 6307, HTSUSA. The goods will be classified in subheading 6307.90.9490, as other made up textile articles; other; other; other. The applicable rate of duty is 7 percent ad valorem.

A copy of this decision should be attached to the CF 19 to be returned to the protestant.


John A. Durant,
Commercial Rulings Division