CLA-2 RR:CR:TE 961366 GGD
Kenneth G. Weigel, Esquire
Kirkland & Ellis
655 Fifteenth Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20005
RE: Classification of Binders/Cases With and Without Paper Inserts, Handles; Articles of Stationery; Other Made Up Textile Articles; Attache Cases, Briefcases, School Satchels; Headings 6307, 4820, and 4202
Dear Mr. Weigel:
This letter is in response to your request of January 28, 1998, on behalf of your client, Acco Brands, Inc., concerning the classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA) of two styles of binders or cases, imported with and without plain looseleaf paper inserts, and with and without handles. The merchandise will be manufactured in China or Mexico. Samples were submitted with your request.
The two binders/cases at issue are not identified by style numbers but they differ in the color of their outer surfaces, one being blue and the other purple. Each article is constructed with a base of paperboard that is covered on both the exterior and interior surfaces with a woven nylon textile fabric. There is a layer of plastic foam material between the exterior fabric layer and the paperboard stiffener.
Each of the articles consists of a jacket or case that is zippered on 3 sides. Each measures approximately 12 inches in height by 11 inches in width by 2 inches in depth (in the closed
position and without expansion of the purple binder’s exterior gusseted pocket). The right interior side of each case features a large sleeve into which is slipped a plastic sheet. A three ring binder mechanism is riveted onto the sheet. The rings measure approximately 1-1/2 inch in diameter. Overlying the sleeve on the right side of the blue binder are three small flat mesh sleeves. The blue binder’s left side features a zippered, mesh, flat pocket and three elastic loop pen holders. The interior left side of the purple binder features a large, open-top, flat pocket, with a smaller, open-top, flat pocket overlying it. The purple binder’s front exterior has one long and narrow zippered pocket, one full-height, full-width zippered, gusseted pocket, and two zippered, flat pockets overlying the gusseted pocket. The gusset allows the pocket to expand to approximately one inch in depth, and the entire article to expand to three inches in depth. The blue binder’s front exterior has one mesh, zippered, flat pocket and a crisscrossing elastic cord. Either of the styles may be imported with a plain paper pad and/or an affixed handle. Further dimensions and details concerning the paper pad are not provided but it is assumed that the pad will have holes punched which correspond to the binding mechanism.
Whether the articles are classified under heading 4202, HTSUSA, which covers, in part, attache cases, briefcases, school satchels, and similar containers; under heading 4820, HTSUSA, which among other items, covers letter pads, memorandum pads, binders, folders, file covers, and other articles of stationery, of paper or paperboard; or under heading 6307, HTSUSA, which covers other made up (textile) articles.
LAW AND ANALYSIS:
Classification under the HTSUS is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI). GRI 1 provides that the classification of goods shall be determined 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 GRI may then be applied. The Explanatory Notes (EN) 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 GRI.
Among other merchandise, chapter 48, HTSUSA, covers articles of paper or of paperboard. Note 1(h) to chapter 48, HTSUSA, states that “[t]his chapter does not cover: Articles of heading 4202 (for example, travel goods).” Among the items covered by heading 4820, are notebooks, letter pads, memorandum pads, diaries and similar articles, binders (looseleaf or other), folders, file covers...and other articles of stationery, of paper or paperboard....” The EN to heading 4820 indicate that the heading covers various articles of stationery including (in addition to the examples noted above) notebooks of all kinds, file covers, files (other than box files), and portfolios. The EN also suggest that the goods of the heading may be bound with materials other than paper (e.g., leather, plastics or textile material) and have reinforcements or fittings of metal, plastics, etc.
The subject articles are composed, in part, of paperboard, that part being the paperboard stiffeners that are sealed between the exterior and interior surfaces. It is the textile materials, however, which form the pockets and sleeves, and which provide each article with its color and aesthetic appeal. Since the paperboard (unlike the textile materials) also cannot be touched or seen, we find that the articles standing alone (without pads or other articles of stationery) do not conform to the language of heading 4820, which provides for only those binders, folders, file covers, and other articles of stationery that are “of paper or paperboard....” If the goods are not articles of 4202, and are found to be binders or similar articles of other chapters, they may be classifiable under heading 4820 if they are imported containing the articles of stationery they are designed to bind and protect. We therefore next examine heading 4202, HTSUSA.
Among other goods, heading 4202, HTSUSA, provides for attache cases, briefcases, school satchels, and similar containers. The exemplars named in heading 4202 have in common the purpose of organizing, storing, protecting, and carrying various items. EN (c) to heading 4202 states that the heading does not cover:
Articles which, although they may have the character of containers, are not similar to those enumerated in the heading, for example, book covers and reading jackets, file-covers, document-jackets...etc., and which are wholly or mainly covered with leather, sheeting of plastics, etc. Such articles fall in heading 4205 if made of (or covered with) leather or composition leather, and in other Chapters if made of (or covered with) other materials.
In considering whether the subject articles have the character of containers but lack similarity to those containers enumerated in heading 4202, we first look to heading 4205, HTSUSA, which covers “Other articles of leather or of composition leather.” Although the language of the heading does not enumerate the book covers, reading jackets, file covers, or document jackets referenced in the EN to heading 4202 above, the EN to heading 4205 state, in pertinent part, that the heading includes:
...reading-covers for books...and other containers (including those wholly or mainly covered with leather or composition leather) not being similar to those specified in heading 4202...
Customs has classified certain articles that have the character of containers but lack similarity to the containers enumerated in heading 4202, and that are made of or covered with materials other than leather (e.g., sheeting of plastics and textile materials) in headings 3926 and 6307, HTSUSA. Like heading 4205, the language of heading 3926, HTSUSA, which covers “Other articles of plastics and articles of other materials of headings 3901 to 3914,” does not enumerate book covers, reading jackets, file covers, or document jackets as exemplars. In pertinent part, however, the EN to heading 3926 state that the heading covers articles of plastics which include:
...file-covers, document-jackets, book covers and reading jackets, and similar protective goods made by sewing or glueing together sheets of plastics.
Among other goods, chapter 63, HTSUSA, provides for “other made up textile articles.” Note 1(l) to section XI, HTSUSA, under which chapter 63 falls, states that “[t]his section does not cover: Articles of textile materials of heading 4201 or 4202.” Like headings 4205 and 3926, the language of heading 6307, HTSUSA, which covers “Other made up articles, including dress patterns,” does not enumerate book covers, reading jackets, file covers, or document jackets as exemplars of articles classifiable thereunder. Despite the fact that the EN to heading 6307 make no reference to reading covers, document jackets, etc., there is no indication in the tariff or the EN that the “other materials” which make up or cover such articles do not include textile materials.
Whether the binders/cases are prima facie classifiable under headings 4202 or 6307, HTSUSA, depends upon whether their primary purpose is to organize, store, protect, and carry various items; or to enclose and protect articles of stationery, books, files, and/or documents. If either item is classifiable under heading 4202, it is precluded from classification under headings 6307 and 4820, by the legal notes to section XI and chapter 48, HTSUSA, previously cited.
Although both binders have substantial interior volume, this space is directly related to the presence and size of the three ring binding mechanism, which also indicates that the space is, for the most part, dedicated to paper goods that will be affixed to the rings. The interior pockets/sleeves and exterior pocket of the blue binder are all flat and composed of mesh fabric, which suggests they are not intended to carry three dimensional items or a variety of personal effects in addition to papers and paper-related goods (pens, ruler, etc.).
We find that, with or without a handle, the blue binder is not prima facie classifiable under heading 4202, HTSUSA, in that it functions primarily as a jacket or cover to enclose and protect papers and articles of stationery. It is therefore not precluded from classification under headings 6307 and 4820, HTSUSA. If imported without contents, the article is classified in subheading 6307.90.9989, HTSUSA. If imported with substantial plain looseleaf paper inserts that the article is designed to bind, the blue binder is classified in subheading 4820.10.2020, HTSUSA. For binding rulings involving similar issues, see Headquarters Ruling Letters (HQ) 962229, issued December 8, 1998, HQ 960305, issued June 6, 1997, New York Ruling Letters (NY) D80856, issued August 6, 1998, NY C87851, issued June 1, 1998, and NY C85231, issued April 3, 1998.
With respect to the purple binder, we note that the article has more exterior pockets than the blue binder, and that all of the pockets are zippered and of sturdy construction. Most significantly, however, the purple binder features the large, zippered, gusseted pocket, which can expand to approximately one inch in depth. The gusseted pocket increases the depth of the entire article by fifty percent (to three inches), and the additional space is separate from the interior space that is dedicated to paper inserts and small and/or flat articles. We find that, with or without a handle, the purple binder’s primary purpose is to organize, store, protect, and carry various personal effects in addition to articles of stationery, and that it is prima facie classifiable under heading 4202, HTSUSA.
In regard to the purple binder’s classification when imported with plain paper inserts, we note that in HQ 959791 and HQ 959792, dated February 11, 1997, Customs determined that the competition between headings 4202 and 4820 was resolved by exclusionary note 1(g) to chapter 48 (now, as stated above, note 1(h). We noted the requirement of GRI 1, that “classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes” and that other GRI may only be used “provided such headings or notes do not otherwise require.” Since the legal note to chapter 48 requires that other GRI not be used to determine classification, the fact that articles are classifiable in heading 4202, precludes their classification under heading 4820, HTSUSA. The above analysis was reiterated and fully supported in a decision by the Court of International Trade in Avenues in Leather v. United States, 11 F. Supp. 2d 719, Slip Op. 98-54, decided April 24, 1998. Therefore, whether the purple binder is imported with or without the plain looseleaf paper inserts it is able to bind, the article is precluded from classification under headings 4820, and is classified in subheading 4202.12.8030, HTSUSA.
When imported empty or without substantial plain paper inserts, the blue binder is classified in subheading 6307.90.9989, HTSUSA, the provision for “Other made up articles, including dress patterns: Other: Other: Other, Other: Other.” The general column one duty rate is 7 percent ad valorem.
When imported with substantial plain paper inserts, the blue binder is classified in subheading 4820.10.2020, HTSUSA, the provision for “Registers...and other articles of stationery...of paper or paperboard: Registers...and similar articles: Diaries..., Memorandum pads, letter pads and similar articles.” The general column one duty rate is 2 percent ad valorem.
Whether imported with or without substantial plain paper inserts, the purple binder is classified in subheading 4202.12.8030, HTSUSA, textile category 670, the provision for “Trunks...and similar containers...: With outer surface of plastics or of textile materials: With outer surface of textile materials: Other, Attache cases...school satchels...: Other: Of man-made fibers.” The general column one duty rate is 18.8 percent ad valorem.
The designated textile and apparel category may be subdivided into parts. If so, visa and quota requirements applicable to the subject merchandise may be affected. Since
part categories are the result of international bilateral agreements which are subject to frequent renegotiations and changes, to obtain the most current information available, we suggest that you check, close to the time of shipment, the Status Report On Current Import Quotas (Restraint Levels), an internal issuance of the U.S. Customs Service, which is available for inspection at your local Customs office.
Due to the changeable nature of the statistical annotation (the ninth and tenth digits of the classification) and the restraint (quota/visa) categories applicable to textile merchandise, you should contact your local Customs office prior to importation of this merchandise to determine the current status of any import restraints or requirements.
John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division