MAR-2-05 CO:R:V:C 733301 RSD
Mr. Jack Alsup
Alsup & Alsup, Inc.
P.O. Box 1251
Del Rio, Texas 78841
RE: Country of origin marking requirements of kitchen knives
and carving forks; 19 CFR 134.43; sharpening not a
substantial transformation: wooden block-separate article
Dear Mr. Alsup:
This is in response to your recent letter requesting a
ruling on the country of origin marking requirements of kitchen
knives and carving forks.
Your client, Gerber Legendary Blades, imports kitchen knives
and forks from Mexico. You have presented different factual
situations regarding the importation of these products and ask
several questions regarding the proper country of origin marking
pertaining to each. Two sample sets of knives were submitted.
In addition, two photographs of kitchen knife sets and their
packaging were submitted.
What are the country of origin marking requirements for
kitchen knives and forks and the packaging in the situations
LAW AND ANALYSIS:
Section 304 of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19
U.S.C.1304), provides that, unless excepted, every article of
foreign origin imported into the U.S. shall be marked in a
conspicuous place as legibly, indelibly, and permanently as the
nature of the article (or 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., 27 C.C.P.A. 297 at 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) defines country of origin as the
country of manufacture, production, or growth of any article of
foreign origin entering the U.S. 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 this part. A substantial
transformation occurs when article lose their identity and become
new articles having a new name, character or use. United States
v. Gibson-Thomsen co., 27 C.C.P.A. 267 at 270 (C.A.D 98) (1940),
National Juice Products Association v. United States, 12 CIT ,
701 F.Supp. 229 (CIT 1988). 19 CFR 134.41(b), mandates that the
ultimate purchaser in the U.S. must be able to find the marking
easily and read it without strain. 19 CFR 134.43 requires that
certain specified articles, including knives, be marked legibly
and conspicuously by die stamping, cast-in-the mold lettering,
etching (acid or electrolytic), engraving, or by means of metal
plates which bear the prescribed marking and which are securely
attached to the article in a conspicuous place by welding,
screws, or rivets.
In the first situation presented, the knives and forks are
made in the U.S. and the packaging for retail is done in Mexico.
In general, U.S articles sent aboard for processing are not
subject to the requirements of 19 U.S.C. 1304 upon their return
unless the processing results in a substantial transformation. HQ
730949, July 18, 1988. Since packaging alone is not a
substantial transformation, neither the knives nor the forks
need to be marked with their country of origin. Assuming the
retail packaging is a disposable container, it is not required to
be marked to indicate its own country of origin. 19 CFR 134.24.
You should be advised that Customs does not have the authority to
approve the marking "Made in the U.S.A." Approval of a "Made in
the U.S.A." marking is within the jurisdiction of the Federal
Trade Commission. The address is Federal Trade Commission,
Division of Enforcement, 6th & Pennsylvania Avenue, NW,
Washington, D.C. 20508.
In the second situation, the knives are made in the U.S.
and are sent to Mexico for sharpening and packaging and are
returned to the U.S. Sharpening the knives without any other
processing is not a substantial transformation because it is a
finishing operation that does not change the name, character or
use of the knives. Accordingly, the knives are not subject to
the requirements of 19 U.S.C. 1304. However, as noted marking
the product or the package "Made in the U.S.A." must be approved
by the Federal Trade Commission. There is no requirement that
the package be marked to indicate the country of origin of the
sharpening or the packaging.
The third situation involves knives of U.S. or foreign
origin and wooden storage blocks of U.S. and foreign origin,
which will be exported to Mexico. In Mexico, the knife blades
are placed in slots in the wooden block, and then the block and
knives are shrink wrapped in clear plastic. The wrapping is not
intended to be removed until after the ultimate purchaser
receives the block and knives. The unit is then placed in a
retail box and shipped to the U.S. If the boxes are properly
marked with the country of origin, the articles themselves are
excepted from marking under 19 U.S.C. 1304(a)(3)(D) and 19 CFR
134.32(d), which provides an exception from marking articles if
marking the container will reasonably indicate the origin of the
article. Although 19 CFR 134.43 specifically requires that
knives be marked legibly and conspicuously by designated methods,
we have previously ruled that the requirements of 19 CFR 134.43
are not applicable if the imported articles are excepted from
individual country of origin marking in accordance with 19 U.S.C.
1304(a)(3)(D) and 19 CFR 134.32(d). See HQ 732437, October 4,
1989. If the containers are sold without normally being opened
by the ultimate purchaser in accordance with 19 CFR 134.24(d)(2),
the containers should be marked to indicate the country of origin
of its contents. You also ask if the country of origin of the
wooden storage block must be indicated. Because the storage
block is a separate article distinct from the knives, if the
country of origin of the wooden storage block is different than
that of the knives, the country of origin of the block must be
In the fourth situation, U.S. made knife blade blanks and
wooden or plastic handles and rivets will be shipped to Mexico
for assembly, sharpening the blade, and packaging for shipment to
the U.S. Although no information was submitted describing the
assembly process, we assume it is a relatively simple operation.
Assuming also that the blades, handles and other component parts
are all from the U.S., it appears that the assembly of the parts
into a finished knife plus sharpening the blade, a minor
finishing operation, does not constitute a substantial
transformation. However, if the assembled knives are entitled to
a duty exemption under the special program for American-made
articles assembled abroad, subheading 9802.00.80, Harmonized
Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), in accordance with
19 CFR 10.22, the assembled knives would be considered products
of the country of assembly, Mexico. If the finished knife is
made of entirely American-made materials, the U.S. origin of the
material may be disclosed by using a legend "Assembled in Mexico
from U.S. Components" or a similar phrase. 19 CFR 10.22.
In the final situation presented, some knives of U.S. and
foreign origin will bulk packed. An opaque plastic sleeve is
placed over the blade, and knives are placed in a shipping
carton. The knives are shipped to retailers who normally display
them individually without packaging to the ultimate purchaser.
If the knives are displayed and not packaged, in accordance with
19 CFR 134.43, the knives of foreign origin must be marked on the
blade legibly and conspicuously by die stamping, cast-in-the mold
lettering, etching (acid or electrolytic), engraving, or by means
of metal plates which bear the prescribed marking and which are
securely attached to the article in a conspicuous place by
welding, screws or rivets. Assuming that the knives are sold to
the ultimate purchaser outside of the bulk package and the bulk
package is disposed of before it reaches the ultimate purchaser,
then the bulk package does not have to be marked with the country
of origin of the contents.
The knives and forks and the packaging should be marked with
country of origin in accordance with the above discussion.
Marvin M. Amernick
Chief, Value, Special Programs
and Admissibility Branch