CLA-2 CO:R:C:F 956582 GGD

Area Director of Customs
Western Great Lakes Area
110 South Fourth Street
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55401

RE: Internal Advice Request No. 36/94; "Wrist Pro" Protective Wrist Bands; Sports Equipment; Not Clothing or Clothing Accessories

Dear Sir:

This letter is in response to Internal Advice Request No. 36/94, initiated by a letter dated May 10, 1994, submitted by William L. Griffin & Company, 7830 12th Avenue South, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55425, on behalf of Hansen Sports Company. The request concerns the classification of protective wrist bands under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA). The articles are imported from Taiwan and samples were submitted with the request. Subsequent to the request and submission, a conference was held with Headquarters personnel on July 6, 1994. Additional submissions were subsequently received and considered.


The sample articles are bands of knit terry cloth (80 percent cotton, 10 percent nylon, and 10 percent rubber), most of which contain a protective insert of either rigid plastic or closed-cell foam rubber. The items are imported in clear plastic packages, with paperboard headers that are perforated for hanging display and retail sale. They are packaged either individually (in which case the band contains an insert) or in pairs (in which case one of the bands may not have an insert). The presence and -2-

composition of inserts, as well as the sizes of the bands and inserts, vary, depending upon the sport for which they are designed.

For example, sample A consists of one wrist protector (with rigid plastic insert) for baseball and softball. Marketing information on the header includes the following: "Help avoid wrist injuries and bruises from bad bounces and wild pitches." Sample B consists of two bands (each with a rigid plastic insert) for protection from "hooks and slashes" during hockey, broomball, lacrosse, field and street hockey. Sample C consists of two long, wide wrist protectors (each with a closed-cell, foam rubber insert) for avoiding "wrist and forearm injuries from heavy contact" during football. Sample D consists of two long wrist protectors (only one of which contains a protective insert) for baseball and softball.


1) Whether the wrist protectors are classifiable in heading 6117, HTSUS, as clothing accessories of cotton, in heading 6307, HTSUS, as other made up textile articles, or in heading 9506, HTSUS, as other sports equipment.

2) What is the proper classification for the retail package containing two wrist protectors, only one of which contains a protective insert?


Classification under the HTSUS is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). The systematic detail of the harmonized system is such that virtually all goods are classified by application of GRI 1, that is, according to the terms of the headings of the tariff schedule and any relative Section or Chapter Notes. In the event that the goods cannot be classified solely on the basis of GRI 1, and if the headings and legal notes do not otherwise require, the remaining GRIs may then be applied. The Explanatory Notes (ENs) to the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, which represent the official interpretation of the tariff at the international level, facilitate classification under the HTSUS by offering guidance in understanding the scope of the headings and GRIs.

The essential issue in this case is whether the wrist protectors are most properly classified as accessories to clothing, as clothing, or as protective sports equipment. -3-

Heading 6117, HTSUS, provides for other made up clothing accessories. In Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 088540, issued June 3, 1991, this office discussed the distinction among the headings of the nomenclature covering clothing and accessories (including protective clothing) and protective equipment. We stated that accessories must be related to, or exhibit some connection to a primary article, and must be intended for use solely or principally as an accessory. Whether or not the wrist protectors are found to be clothing, they are not related or connected to a primary article, and are not intended for sole or principal use as a clothing accessory. Thus, the items are not classifiable in heading 6117, HTSUS.

Heading 6307, HTSUS, covers other made up textile articles, including dress patterns. In HRL 951844, issued September 4, 1992, this office classified a pair of cotton/stretch nylon wristbands in heading 6307. We noted that the essential function of the items was to absorb sweat, that they did not constitute clothing accessories, and that there was no specific provision in the Nomenclature for sweatbands. The articles did not contain protective inserts or function to protect the wrists from blows encountered in sports. We thus find that the wrist protectors are not clothing classifiable in heading 6307, and we must look further to properly classify the articles.

Heading 9506, HTSUS, provides, in pertinent part, for articles and equipment for athletics, other sports or outdoor games. Note 1(e) to chapter 95 states that the chapter does not cover sports clothing. However, the ENs to heading 9506 indicate that the heading covers protective equipment for sports or games, including breast plates, elbow pads, knee pads, cricket pads, and shin guards, all of which provide protection for bones closely underlying the skin and having little natural protection. We find that the wrist protectors perform a similar protective function, and that they do not comprise sports clothing excluded from chapter 95. The wrist protectors are classified in subheading 9506.99.6080, HTSUS.

With respect to the classification of the retail package containing two wrist protectors, only one of which contains a protective insert (sample D), we find that the article cannot be classified by reference to GRI 1 because the components are classifiable in different headings, i.e., 9506 and 6307.

In pertinent part, GRI 2(b) states that:

[t]he classification of goods consisting of more than one material or substance shall be according to the principles of rule 3. -4-

GRI 3(a) directs that the headings are regarded as equally specific when each heading refers to part only of the items contained in a set put up for retail sale. Therefore, to determine under which provision the article will be classified, we look to GRI 3(b), which states in pertinent part that:

goods...which cannot be classified by reference to 3(a), shall be classified as if they consisted of the material or component which gives them their essential character, insofar as this criterion is applicable.

In order to determine the essential character of the set, we next view Explanatory Note VIII to GRI 3(b), which provides the following guidance:

The factor which determines essential character will vary as between different kinds of goods. It may, for example, be determined by the nature of the material or component, its bulk, quantity, weight or value, or by the role of a constituent material in relation to the use of the goods.

We note that a wristband without a protective insert essentially functions to absorb sweat, while the other component primarily provides protection. We are also mindful that in baseball and softball, the wrist that faces the pitcher and wears the fielder's glove is in greater need of protection than the other wrist. Thus, the pair of wrist protectors containing only one protective insert may be worn primarily to protect. We find that the set's essential character is provided by the protective equipment component classifiable in heading 9506.


The "Wrist Pro" protective wrist bands are classified in subheading 9506.99.6080, HTSUSA, the provision for "Articles and equipment for general physical exercise, gymnastics, athletics, other sports (including table-tennis) or outdoor and accessories thereof: Other: Other: Other, Other." The applicable duty rate is 4.5 percent ad valorem.

The "Wrist Pro" retail package containing two wrist bands, only one of which contains a protective insert (sample D), is also classified in subheading 9506.99.6080, HTSUSA.

This decision should be mailed by your office to the internal advice requester no later than 60 days from the date of this letter. After sixty days, the Office of Regulations and -5-

Rulings will take steps to make the decision available to Customs personnel via the Customs Rulings Module in ACS, and to the public via the Diskette Subscription Service, Freedom of Information Act, and other public access channels.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division