CLA-02 RR:CR:SM 561279 MFC

Philip Yale Simons, Esq.
Simons & Wiskin
90 West Street
10th floor
New York, New York 10006

RE: Modification of NY D83257; country of origin determination of imported paint brushes; substantial transformation

Dear Mr. Simons:

This is in response to your letter dated January 29, 1999, on behalf of Golden Mermaid, Inc. (“Golden Mermaid”), which requests reconsideration of New York Ruling Letter (NY) D83257, dated October 20, 1998, regarding the country of origin of paint brushes imported from Holland. You submitted additional information by letter of September 21, 1999, in response to our inquiry.


Your client imports paint brushes from Holland. The paint brushes are comprised of brushes made of Chinese hog bristles, wooden handles made in Germany, and ferrules either made in Italy of metal or in Holland of plastic. You state that the Chinese bristles imported into Holland are raw bristles which have not been pre-treated in any manner.

The bristles are shipped from China to Holland packed in cardboard rings of approximately four inches in diameter. In Holland, a complicated, multi-step manufacturing operation produces the brushes to be imported by Golden Mermaid. You assert that the process used by Golden Mermaid is significantly different from those used by its competitors.

In Holland, the Chinese bristles are removed from their cardboard rings and placed in a machine which mixes and blends the bristles to achieve a blend which works best with solvent and water-based paints. When placing the different varieties of bristles into the blending machine, the machine operator visually inspects the bristles and manually aligns all of the bristles so that the ends are lined up in the same direction. Bristles that are not aligned are removed and replaced. After the bristles are blended, they are allowed to settle in order for the static electricity produced during the blending operation to dissipate.

A small hole is drilled in the handles and the handle is painted with the manufacturer’s bar code and other brand and size information. The Golden Mermaid logo is attached to the end of the handle with adhesive.

For each size of brush, a specific weight of bristles is measured by machine and placed into a specifically designed device which gives the brush a unique shape. This process allows the natural ends of the bristles to remain intact, which distinguishes it from other manufacturing processes in which the ends of the bristles are cut and shaved to give the brush its shape.

The other end of the bristles, which is to become the ferrule end, is trimmed or shaved so that all the bristles are of an equal length. The shaved end of the bristles is placed into a ferrule, with the ends of the bristles inserted to the same depth. A core is placed between the bristles to separate them which enhances capillary action to draw the paint onto the brush. Epoxy is forced into the open end of the ferrule which sets the bristles. Before the epoxy sets, a brush handle is inserted into the ferrule. The brush handle for flat brushes has been cut into a dovetail shape which forms a connection with the epoxy that, unlike the traditional method used to produce paint brushes, leaves no void within the ferrule. After the epoxy sets, the brushes are inspected, packaged, and boxed for shipment.

In NY D83257, the Port of New York determined the origin of the imported paint brushes to be China based on the origin of the bristles.


What is the country of origin of the finished paint brushes?


The marking statute, section 304, Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C. §1304), provides that, unless excepted, every article of foreign origin (or its container) imported into the U.S. shall be marked in a conspicuous place as legibly, indelibly and permanently as the nature of the article (or its container) will permit, in such a manner as to indicate to the ultimate purchaser in the U.S. the English name of the country of origin of the article.

Congressional intent in enacting 19 U.S.C. §1304 was “that the ultimate purchaser should be able to know by an inspection of the marking on the imported goods the country of which the goods is the product. The evident purpose is to mark the goods so that at the time of purchase the ultimate purchaser may, by knowing where the goods were produced, be able to buy or refuse to buy them, if such marking should influence his will.” United States v. Friedlaender & Co. Inc., 27 CCPA 297, 302 (1940).

Part 134, Customs Regulations (19 CFR Part 134) implements the country of origin marking requirements and exceptions of 19 U.S.C. §1304. Section 134.1(b), Customs Regulations (19 CFR §134.1(b)), defines country of origin as “the country of manufacture, production, or growth of any article of foreign origin entering the United States. Further work or material added to an article in another country must effect a substantial transformation in order to render such other country the country of origin within the meaning of [the marking laws and regulations]....”

A substantial transformation is said to have occurred when an article emerges from a manufacturing process with a name, character, or use which differs from the original material subjected to the process. U.S. v. GibsonThomsen Co., Inc., 27 C.C.P.A. 267 (C.A.D. 98) (1940); Texas Instruments v. United States, 681 F.2d 778, 782 (CCPA 1982).

In Gibson-Thomsen, the court held that imported wood brush block and toothbrush handles into which U.S.-origin bristles were inserted in the U.S. lost their identity as handles and became new articles having a new name, character, and use. The court looked at whether the imported article lost its identity when combined with other articles and concluded that wood handles were mere materials to be used in the manufacture of toothbrushes and hairbrushes in the U.S. The court found that the ultimate purchaser of the wood brush blocks and toothbrush handles was the manufacturer and that the blocks and handles were substantially transformed during the manufacture so that they were no longer required to be marked. Therefore, the court concluded that a mere material to be used in the manufacture of a new article in the U.S. having a new name, character, and use, and which became an integral part of the new article would not be required to be marked.

In Headquarters Ruling Letter (“HQ”) 733199 (July 19, 1990), bristles attached to metal ferrules were imported from China into the Philippines where they were attached to brush handles of Philippine origin. The bristle heads were trimmed so that the bristles were level and cleaned to remove any loose bristles. The Philippine origin handles were then attached to the bristle heads and ferrules. The ruling distinguished Gibson-Thomsen as that case examined whether the handles were substantially transformed after being inserted with bristles. The ruling held that the bristles were the very essence of the paint brush and did not become a new article having a new name, character or use, and therefore the origin of the paint brush remained the same as the origin of the bristles, China. The ruling noted that the bristles were substantially finished prior to arriving in the Philippines and required only trimming and cleaning prior to attachment of the handle in the Philippines.

In NY D83257, like in HQ 733199, it was determined that the bristles are the very essence of the finished paint brush and do not become a new article having a new name, character or use when combined with the handle and ferrule in Holland. That ruling determined that the processing which takes place in Holland does not effect a substantial transformation.

We disagree. We find that HQ 733199 is distinguishable from the facts of this case. In HQ 733199, the Chinese-origin bristles imported into the Philippines were already attached and set into the ferrules. It was only necessary to trim and clean the bristles and then attach the bristle heads to the handles. However, in this case, raw, untreated hog bristles of Chinese origin are imported into Holland in bulk where they are blended, aligned, trimmed on the ferrule end, measured by weight for each size brush, inserted into the ferrule and permanently set within the ferrule by means of epoxy. The handle is then attached to the ferrule. In their condition as imported into Holland, the raw bristles are not dedicated to use solely as paint brush heads but have other potential uses. Unlike the bristle heads involved in HQ 733199, the raw bristles involved in this case cannot be said to represent the “very essence” of the finished paint brushes. Thus, we find that the bristles and other components imported into Holland are substantially transformed when processed into finished paint brushes. Accordingly, the country of origin of the paint brushes is Holland and they must be so marked.


The Chinese-origin bristles are substantially transformed by the processing in Holland. Accordingly, the country of origin of the finished paint brushes is Holland.

NY D83257 is hereby modified. In accordance with 19 U.S.C. §1625(c), this ruling will become effective 60 days after its publication in the Customs Bulletin.


John Durant
Commercial Rulings Division