CLA-2 RR:CR:TE 962634 GGD
U.S. Customs Service
111 West Huron Street
Buffalo, New York 14242-2378
RE: Decision on Application for Further Review of Protest No. 0901-97-101793, filed
August 8, 1997, Concerning the Classification of Camera Housings; Containers
of Heading 4202; Not Parts or Accessories of Cameras
This is a decision on a protest timely filed on August 8, 1997, against your decision in the classification and liquidation of an entry of protective housings (for various types of cameras) that were entered in February 1997.
You classified the merchandise at issue in subheading 4202.92.9060, HTSUSA, the provision for "Trunks...binocular cases, camera cases...and similar containers...: Other: With outer surface of sheeting of plastic or of textile materials: Other: Other, Other: Other," with a general column one duty rate (in 1997) of 19.3 percent ad valorem.
The protestant claims that the merchandise at issue should be classified either in subheading 9007.91.8000, HTSUSA, the provision for "Cinematographic cameras and projectors, whether or not incorporating sound recording or reproducing apparatus; parts and accessories thereof: Parts and accessories: For cameras: Other," with a general column one duty rate (in 1997) of 4.6 percent ad valorem; or in subheading 8529.90.8400, HTSUSA, the provision for "Parts suitable for use solely or principally with the apparatus of headings 8525 to 8528: Other: Other parts of articles of headings
8525 and 8527, except parts of cellular telephones: Of articles of subheading 8525.10.90, 8525.20, 8525.40.40, 8527.90.40 or 8527.90.85," with an applicable duty rate (in 1997) of Free.
Although the individual articles at issue vary in shape, dimensions, features, fittings, etc., all are containers (described as flexible "housings") that protect, enhance and expand the uses of cameras and/or video camera recorders in hostile environments (moisture-laden air, rain, salt spray, sand, dust, etc.) and/or underwater. The containers are essentially composed of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic sheeting that is double laminated, high frequency welded, resistant to ultraviolet light, and tested to be watertight to depths ranging from 10 to 50 meters. The containers feature optical glass with seals and adapter rings to connect a camera lens to the housing's interior glass. Some of the housings have a built-in glove for fingertip control of a camera. In part, advertising literature states:
Take your camera and camcorder anywhere!
The flexible EWA camera housing is the ideal protection for your camera and is a valuable accessory to really enjoy the use of your camera or camcorder, keeping it action-ready on boats, beaches, ski-slopes or underwater.
Does the housing fit my camera? SLR [single lens reflex] and compact housings fit most cameras universally....Camcorder housings have to be selected for specific camcorder models. For example, the model U-VST (#E176) fits most Sony TR models. NEVER GUESS! Consult the EWA size sheet with your exact camera brand and model number. Ask your dealer.
The goods are not imported with cameras or similar apparatuses. Although the example is provided above of a housing said to fit "most Sony TR models," the protestant does not otherwise identify particular cameras or apparatuses for which the imported articles are to be parts or accessories.
Whether the merchandise is classifiable as camera cases and/or similar containers to those of heading 4202, HTSUSA; or as parts or parts and accessories of cameras under headings 8529 and/or 9007, HTSUSA.
LAW AND ANALYSIS:
Classification under the HTSUSA 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 HTSUSA by offering guidance in understanding the scope of the headings and GRI.
Pursuant to GRI 1, we first examine the terms of the headings. In pertinent part, heading 9007, HTSUSA, provides for "Cinematographic cameras and projectors...parts and accessories thereof." Heading 8529, HTSUSA, covers "Parts suitable for use solely or principally with the apparatus of headings 8525 to 8528." Within those four headings, we note that the heading most specifically related to cameras is heading 8525, HTSUSA, which provides, in part, for "...still image video cameras or other video camera recorders." Heading 4202, HTSUSA, provides for:
Trunks, suitcases, vanity cases, attache cases, briefcases, school satchels, spectacle cases, binocular cases, camera cases, musical instrument cases, gun cases, holsters and similar containers; traveling bags, toiletry bags, knapsacks and backpacks, handbags, shopping bags, wallets, purses, map cases, cigarette cases, tobacco pouches, tool bags, sports bags, bottle cases, jewelry boxes, powder cases, cutlery cases and similar containers, of leather or of composition leather, of sheeting of plastics, of textile materials, of vulcanized fiber or of paperboard, or wholly or mainly covered with such materials or with paper. [Emphasis added.]
Proper classification within a provision for "parts" or "parts and accessories" requires identification of the specific type of article for which the good at issue is to be a part or accessory. If this requirement is satisfied, Customs generally will consider an article to be a part if: it must be combined with other articles to be used; or it must be an integral, constituent or component part, without which the article to which it is joined could not function; or it aids in the safe and efficient operation of the main article; and it is identifiable by shape or other characteristics as an article solely or principally used as a part. Customs generally will consider an article to be an accessory if: it facilitates use or handling; or it widens the range of uses of the main article; or it improves the operation of the main article; or it is not needed to enable the goods with which it is used to fulfill its intended function; and it is identifiable as being intended solely or principally for use with a specific article.
Although cameras are able to function with or without containers of plastic sheeting, each of the articles at issue would widen a camera's range of uses. The housings at issue more adequately satisfy the general criteria to be considered accessories rather than parts. For judicial guidance concerning the classification of parts or parts and accessories, see Bauerhin Technologies Limited Partnership and John V. Carr & Son, Inc. v. United States, 914 F. Supp. 554, Slip Op. 95-206 (1995 Ct. Intl. Trade), aff’d, Slip Op. 96-1275, Slip Op. 96-1276, decided April 2, 1997.
It does not directly follow that articles which may function as accessories or as parts are classifiable as such. Additional U.S. Rule of Interpretation 1 (c), states:
In the absence of special language or context which otherwise requires--
* * *
(c) a provision for parts of an article covers products solely or principally used as a part of such articles but a provision for "parts" or "parts and accessories" shall not prevail over a specific provision for such part or accessory. [Emphasis added.]
In this case, the legal note above would preclude the claimed provisions for parts or parts and accessories, from prevailing over a specific provision for the containers. The terms of heading 4202, HTSUSA, specifically provide, eo nomine, for "camera cases...and similar containers." The protestant asserts, however, that the articles at issue cannot be considered "camera cases" because it is commonly accepted that the term connotes a rigid container of plastic, metal, or textile and foam padding - all of which are materials indicative of the importance of protection during transport. Protestant contends that the housings are neither designed nor suitable for transporting a camera, that they provide no protection during transport, that any protection the housings provide against sand and moisture is a secondary feature, and that each housing's main purpose is to permit a camera's use underwater.
The FACTS section above recounts advertising and findings as to each housing's material composition. The facts appear to contradict much of what the protestant asserts. Also, with respect to component materials, rigidity, and the reach of the expression "similar containers," pertinent explanatory notes to heading 4202 state that:
This heading covers only the articles specifically named therein and similar containers. These containers may be rigid or with a rigid foundation, or soft and without foundation....the articles covered by the first part of the heading may be
of any material. The expression "similar containers" in the first part includes hat boxes, camera accessory cases, cartridge pouches, sheaths for hunting or camping knives, portable tool boxes or cases, specially shaped or internally fitted to contain particular tools with or without their accessories, etc.
In Totes, Incorporated v. United States, 18 C.I.T. 919, 865 F. Supp. 867 (1994), aff’d, 69 F.3d 495 (Fed. Cir. 1995), the Court of International Trade (CIT) examined the classification of automobile trunk organizers (designed to store trunk necessities in an orderly manner) and, applying the rule of ejusdem generis, determined whether the organizers were of the same class or kind of containers as the listed 4202 exemplars. Although finding significant disparity in the physical characteristics, purposes, and uses of the individual exemplars, the Court emphasized that the essential characteristics and purposes of all of the exemplars were to organize, store, protect and carry various items. Since the capability of the trunk organizers to carry was a central issue in the case, the plaintiff attempted to minimize the organizers’ carrying capacity and function. The Court, however, rejected any requirement that the principal design feature of an article classified as a “similar container” under heading 4202, be portability or transportation of the contents. The Court recognized that portability is often only an incidental purpose of jewelry boxes and certain tool chests classifiable under heading 4202, but that those containers still retained their primary uses to organize, store and protect articles.
Like the trunk organizers, the subject housings may not be principally designed to transport contents, but if they were not suitable to effectively transport contents, it is unlikely that prospective consumers would be enticed through advertisement to purchase the housings to "Take [their] camera anywhere!" We also do not accept the protestant's attempts to denigrate the containers' use in protecting against numerous corrosive elements, valid characteristics that are self-servingly described as secondary features to uses for underwater photography.
In Jewelpak Corp. v. United States, 97 F. Supp. 1192, Slip Op. 2000-39 (denying cross-motions for summary judgment on April 13, 2000), 131 F. Supp. 2d 100, Slip Op. 2001-4, decided January 24, 2001, the CIT examined the classification of various presentation boxes for holding specific pieces of jewelry including rings, bracelets, necklaces, and watches. Customs had classified the boxes in subheading 4202.92.90, HTSUSA. The goods were described as flip open boxes consisting of a top and bottom shell (composed of either steel or plastic), connected by a steel hinge, and possessing an outer covering of textile material or plastic sheeting. While plaintiff agreed that a "jewelry box" could be a large chest of the kind placed on a dresser for holding multiple
pieces of jewelry, it disputed the Government's position that a "jewelry box" could also be any box for holding a piece of jewelry for some period of time (short or long). The Court found that the jewelry boxes were designed to protect as well as package jewelry, and that they were also capable of being used for storage. After a bench trial, the Court further concluded that the merchandise was suitable for long term use and that the goods were therefore classified as "jewelry boxes" under heading 4202, HTSUSA. The CIT's acceptance of the jewelry boxes' protective and storage purposes, and its main focus at trial on suitability for long term use, suggest that all four essential characteristics and purposes (i.e., to organize, store, protect and carry various items) need not be present in all instances for a container to be ejusdem generis with the exemplars of heading 4202, HTSUSA.
In Rooster Products, Inc. v. United States, Slip Op. 00-60, decided June 1, 2000, the CIT considered whether the imported leather "tool holders" at issue were a form of "tool bag," and whether they were ejusdem generis with the exemplars of heading 4202, HTSUSA. Similar to the protestant's argument herein, the plaintiff maintained that, although the terms of heading 4202 specifically provide, eo nomine, for "tool bags...and similar containers," the articles at issue could not be considered "bags." The Court pointed out that an eo nomine provision without terms of limitation includes all forms of the article in the absence of a contrary legislative intent. According to the plaintiff, the tool holders functioned minimally to protect and store, and since the articles were open at the top and could not be closed, they did not fit the definitions of "bag" contained in several lexicographic sources. Based upon other sources and definitions, its own research, and its understanding of the term, the CIT found that a "bag" did not have to close or be capable of closing, that "[t]he defining characteristics of a bag are that it must be a container of flexible material with an opening at the top," and that the "tool holders" at issue were a form of "tool bag" and were classified under subheading 4202.91.00, HTSUS. The Court stated that:
In the alternative, even if the tool holders could not be considered a form of tool bag it would be necessary to examine whether they are similar to the exemplars expressly listed....When a tariff provision lists a number of items and is followed by a general word or phrase, like the provision at issue's use of the phrase "similar containers," the rule of statutory construction called ejusdem generis applies. See Avenues in Leather; Inc. v. United States, 178 F.3d 1241, 1244 (Fed. Cir. 1999). Imported merchandise falls within the general phrase if it
possesses the essential characteristics or purposes uniting the listed exemplars and does not have a more specific primary purpose that is inconsistent with the listed exemplars.
In light of the above analysis, we find that the camera housings at issue are classifiable under heading 4202, as containers that are similar to camera cases, and are specifically classified in subheading 4202.92.9060, HTSUSA. For a similar result concerning protective bags for cameras, see Headquarters Ruling Letter (HQ) 964393, dated July 30, 2001. The ruling was published as a final notice of the revocation of New York Ruling Letter (NY) F88775 (dated July 13, 2000), in the Customs Bulletin, Volume 35, Number 34, dated August 22, 2001.
The various styles of containers described as camera housings are classified in subheading 4202.92.9060, HTSUSA, the provision for "Trunks...binocular cases, camera cases...and similar containers...: Other: With outer surface of sheeting of plastic or of textile materials: Other: Other, Other: Other." The general column one duty rate (in 1997) is 19.3 percent ad valorem.
The protest should be DENIED. In accordance with Section 3A(11)(b) of Customs Directive 099 3550-065, dated August 4, 1993, Subject: Revised Protest Directive, you are to mail this decision, together with the Customs Form 19, to the
protestant no later than 60 days from the date of this letter. Any reliquidation of the entry or entries in accordance with the decision must be accomplished prior to mailing of the decision.
No later than 60 days from the date of this letter, the Office of Regulations and Rulings will make the decision available to Customs personnel, and to the public on the Customs Home Page on the World Wide Web at www.customs.gov, by means of the Freedom of Information Act, and by other methods of public distribution.
John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division