CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 965591 JPJ
U.S. Customs Service
6747 Engle Road
Middleburg Heights, OH 44130
RE: Protest 4101-01-100238; Cutting Rule and Rule Die Material
Dear Port Director:
This is our decision on Protest 4101-01-100238, filed by counsel on behalf of Bohler-Uddeholm Strip Steel, LLC ("protestant") concerning the classification, under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States ("HTSUS"), of certain cutting rules and rule die material. Samples of individual blades cut from this material were submitted.
The record indicates that the cutting rule and rule die material was entered on May 9, 2000. The entry was liquidated on March 23, 2001, and this protest was filed on June 21, 2001.
This protest was filed in response to your decision regarding the classification of cutting rule and rule die material. The cutting rule and rule die material were entered under subheading 8208.90.60, HTSUS, as knives and cutting blades for machines or for mechanical appliances, and base metal parts thereof. The goods were reclassified and the entry was liquidated under subheading 7211.90.00, HTSUS, as flat-rolled products of iron or non-alloy steel, of a width of less than 600 mm, not clad, plated or coated:; not further worked than cold-rolled (cold-reduced); other, and at a higher rate of duty. Counsel for the protestant claims that the cutting rules and rule die material were correctly classified as entered, and that Customs classification is incorrect.
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The merchandise has been described on submitted invoices and in literature as various brands of cutting rules imported in coils and in material lengths. The cutting rules are manufactured to meet particular industry standards and possess technical cutting properties to meet specific user needs. Protestant states that the cutting rules and rule die material are made of low-grade carbon steels and are in the form of strip steel with a cutting edge. Protestant also states that the cutting rules and rule die material are designed for use as blades in machines to cut, inter alia, paperboard and carton material. Protestant states that the products are ready for use at the time of importation; however, the ultimate user must cut the strip to length to install it in a cutting machine.
The cutting rule and rule die material is imported in coils, typically between 100 and 250 feet in length. A cutting edge is usually shaved (longitudinally worked), with a very high dimensional accuracy, along the entire length of the material.
The HTSUS provisions under consideration are as follows:
7211 Flat-rolled products of iron or nonalloy steel, of a width of less than 600 mm, not clad, plated or coated:
Not further worked than cold-rolled (cold-reduced):
* * * *
8208 Knives and cutting blades, for machines or for mechanical appliances, and base metal parts thereof:
8208.90.60 Other (including parts)
Whether cutting rule and rule die material, imported in coils typically between 100 and 250 feet in length, assumes the character of knives and cutting blades of heading 8208.
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LAW AND ANALYSIS:
Under General Rule of Interpretation (GRI) 1, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), goods are to be classified according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes, and provided the headings or notes do not require otherwise, according to GRIs 2 through 6.
The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) constitute the official interpretation of the HTSUS. Though not dispositive, the ENs provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the HTSUS. Customs believes the ENs should always be consulted. See T.D. 89-80. 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (Aug. 23, 1989).
As authority for the heading 8208 classification, counsel cites the following: (1) Section XV, Note 2, HTSUS, states, in part, that articles of chapter 82 (8208) are excluded from chapter 72 (7211); (2) the 82.08 ENs describe the merchandise at issue, i.e., knives and cutting blades for machines or mechanical appliances used to process leather and those used with similar machines in the paper, textiles and plastics industries; and (3) several rulings classify substantially similar merchandise in heading 8208.
Whether merchandise is classifiable as a material or as a good, either finished or unfinished, is determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on the particular facts and the HTSUS provisions involved. Baxter Healthcare Corp. of P.R. v. United States, 998 F. Supp. 1133 (1998), aff'd 182 F. 3d 1333.
The cutting rule and rule die material is within the definition of Flat-rolled products, as found in Chapter 72, Note 1(k), HTSUS. Relevant 72.11 ENs state that products of heading 7211 may be worked (e.g., corrugated, ribbed, chequered, embossed, bevelled or rounded at the edges), provided that they do not thereby assume the character of articles or products of other headings. (Emphasis added). These ENs expressly exclude from heading 7211 blanks of articles of Chapter 82 (including razor blade blanks in strips).
The issue, then, is whether by virtue of the high-toleranced cutting edge longitudinally worked along its entire length, the material at issue has assumed the character of goods of heading 8208. Numerous cases attempt to distinguish merchandise imported in material lengths from articles of other headings or parts of such articles. As to whether merchandise imported in coils or in material lengths should be classified as the article or articles made from that material, the
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courts have stated "...where such [small articles] are imported in the piece and nothing remains to be done except to cut them apart, they shall be treated for dut[y] purposes as if already cut apart and assessed according to their individual character or identity. This follows, however, only in case the character or identity of the individual articles is fixed with certainty, and in case the woven piece in its entirety is not commercially capable of any other use." See Heraeus-Amersil v. United States, 640 F. Supp. 1331 (1986), Doherty-Barrow of Texas, Inc. v. U.S., 2 C.I.T. (1982), and related cases. Noting relevant 82.08 ENs, the knives and cutting blades of that heading are limited only by the fact that they be rectangular, circular or of other shapes, and are for machines or mechanical appliances and not for the hand tools of headings 8201 to 8205. The term "cutting blade" is not otherwise defined in an HTSUS legal note or further discussed in the ENs. In common meaning, however, the term blade connotes an edged instrument or cutting part of an instrument, as of a sword or a saw, or the flat-edged cutting part of a sharpened tool or weapon. In our opinion, the high-toleranced cutting edge along the entire length of the merchandise at issue appears to satisfy the "single commercial use" criteria. However, as imported, the cutting rule and rule die material is not within the common meaning of the term blade as it is not the cutting part of an edged instrument or sharpened tool or weapon. It is material from which individual cutting parts will be made. The character or identity of individual cutting blades in this case is not fixed with certainty. For this reason, the material has not assumed the character of goods of heading 8208.
The rulings counsel cites classify knives and blades for use with machines in the graphics and printing industries in heading 8208, HTSUS. Typical of these is NY F87866, dated June 6, 2000. The merchandise in that case was specifically described as "industrial knife blades" and "knives and blades made of carbon, stainless and high-wear tool steels." Though admittedly brief, this description strongly suggests actual cutting instruments appropriate to heading 8208, rather than material lengths from which such instruments are made.
Numerous cases exist in which substantially similar merchandise, imported in material lengths, was held to be classified in headings 7211 or 7215, HTSUS, as appropriate. In NY 889448, dated September 13, 1993, and
NY A88253, dated November 6, 1996, clicker die steel and doctor blade material, both imported in material lengths and with bevelled edges, for use as cutting dies in specialty stamping machines and for incorporation into so-called doctor assemblies for scraping and cleaning cylinders within a paper machine, were held to be bars and rods of iron or nonalloy steel, in heading 7215, HTSUS, and as flat-rolled products of iron or nonalloy steel, in heading 7211, HTSUS,
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respectively. Similarly, in NY A85806, dated July 24, 1996, coater blades imported in material lengths with bevelled edges, cut to length after importation for use with paper machines, were held to be classified in heading 7211, HTSUS.
Under the authority of GRI 1, the cutting rule and die rule material is provided for in heading 7211. It is classifiable in subheading 7211.90.00.
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 the decision. Sixty days from the date of the decision 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 other methods of public distribution.
Myles B. Harmon, Acting Director
Commercial Rulings Division