CLA-2 CO:R:C:F 950236 STB

Mr. Jonathan M. Fee
Grunfeld, Desiderio, Lebowitz & Silverman
1201 West Peachtree Street, N.E.
Suite 4660
Atlanta, Georgia 30309

RE: Request for Reconsideration of Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 089085 concerning the tariff classification of "talking door mats."

Dear Mr. Fee:

This letter is in response to your request for a reconsideration of HRL 089085, dated July 8, 1991, regarding the classification of items known as "talking door mats" under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA). Samples of the merchandise, which is to be imported from Taiwan, were submitted with your request.


Each mat consists of a foam layer placed between two sheets of conductive paper. There are holes in the foam layer which allow contact between the papers when pressure is applied. Wires are attached to the conductive papers and connect to a voice box. The voice box contains a speaker, battery compartment and a circuit board with a prerecorded integrated circuit chip attached. The application of pressure causes the papers to make contact, which completes the electrical circuit and activates the voice box. The top and bottom of the mat consist of sheets of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which has been flocked with a man-made fiber. The PVC sheets are joined together at their edges by heat sealing.

The flocked plastic top sheet of each sample has a holiday motif screen-printed on it. One of the submitted mats is green and displays a picture of Santa Claus and the words "Merry


Christmas", while an orange mat depicts a haunted house, a tree without leaves, a full moon, bats, and the words "Happy Halloween." When the switch is activated (by stepping on the mat) the voice box for the Christmas mat emits the words "HO, HO, HO, Merry Christmas" and the Halloween mat emits a scream.

In HRL 089085, this merchandise was classified in subheading 6304.93.0000, HTSUSA, the provision for "other furnishing articles." In your August 19 submission you contend that there are several other provisions that are more appropriate and you add to this list in your additional submission dated January 21, 1992.


Whether the mats should be classified under the HTSUSA as festive articles, practical joke articles, other furnishing articles, articles of plastic, sound reproducing apparatus or as an electric apparatus?


Classification under the (HTSUSA) is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's). 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 GRI's may then be applied. The Explanatory Notes (EN's) 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's.

Your primary contention is that the doormats should be classified in heading 9505, HTSUSA, which provides, in pertinent part, for "[f]estive, carnival or other entertainment articles." The EN's to heading 9505 indicate that the heading covers;

(A) Festive, carnival or other entertainment articles which in view of their intended use are generally made of non-durable material. They include:

(1) Decorations such as festoons, garlands, Chinese lanterns, etc., as well as various decorative articles made of paper, metal foil,


glass fibre, etc., for Christmas trees (e.g., tinsel, stars, icicles), artificial snow, coloured balls, bells, lanterns, etc. Cake and other decorations (e.g., animals, flags) which are traditionally associated with a particular festival are also classified here.

(2) Articles traditionally used at Christmas festivities, e.g., artificial Christmas trees (these are sometimes of the folding type), nativity scenes, Christmas crackers, Christmas stockings, imitation yule logs.

* * *

As the EN's indicate, articles classifiable in heading 9505, HTSUSA, tend to have no function other than decoration; utilitarian articles are not included in this heading.

It is our determination that this merchandise is not classified in heading 9505, HTSUSA. Doormats are not "traditionally associated with a particular holiday" in accordance with the EN description; they are utilitarian articles that are sold year-round in a variety of motifs. Additionally, doormats are not "traditionally used at Christmas festivities."

You also contend that this merchandise can be classified in heading 9505, HTSUSA, on the basis that they are practical joke articles as provided for in subheading 9505.90.2000, HTSUSA. EN 95.05(B) states that the subheading includes:

(B) Conjuring tricks and novelty jokes, e.g. packs of cards, tables, screens and containers, specially designed for the performance of conjuring tricks; novelty jokes such as sneezing powder, surprise sweets, water-jet button-holes and "Japanese flowers."

This list of examples is not all-inclusive but does indicate what types of items are intended to be included within the relevant subheading.

It is our determination that the talking doormats are not classifiable as practical joke articles. In Parksmith Corporation v. United States, 67 Cust. Ct. 405, 408, C.D. 4304 (1970), the court stated that a practical joke article is an article which causes humor by "somehow placing an individual at a


disadvantage through a trick or prank." The court adopted this definition as a summary of several dictionary definitions of the term "practical joke" as well as the results of other court cases. All of the items listed in the above cited EN fit into this definition, but the talking doormats do not. Although mildly amusing and clever, the doormats do not place an individual at a disadvantage through a trick or prank.

You also contend that these mats are classifiable under either subheading 8519.99.00, HTSUSA, as other sound reproducing apparatus or under subheading 8543.80.90, HTSUSA, as an electrical apparatus. This contention is based on the argument that the sound device or voice box provides the essential character of the whole and that the mat is no more than an actuator for the sound device; you state that the mat is too flimsy to be of any use for feet wiping and that the decorative aspects of the mat are "likely to go unnoticed underfoot, especially by the evening guest or "trick-or-treater" who approaches the owner's home in darkness."

In discussing whether this item will be classified under a provision for the mat or a provision for the sound device, we note that the decision will be based on GRI 3(b) which states:

Mixtures, composite goods consisting of different materials or made up of different components, and goods put up in sets for retail sale, 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.

Explanatory Note VIII to GRI 3(b) provides the following guidance concerning the essential character determination:

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.

These items are marketed as indoor/outdoor doormats (your Exhibit D) and they appear to be doormats. There is no question, however, that these mats are quite flimsy. Although they have the appearance of regular doormats, which will encourage some individuals to wipe their feet thereon, the mats


will not withstand much activity of this type even for the limited seasons of use which are intended. However, the three color screenprints that decorate the mats indicate the intent that they have an important decorative purpose. It is our opinion that, in addition to being placed outside the home, these mats will be placed in other locations in which they will be even more visible, such as inside the owner's home (right in front of the door) or in doorways between various rooms of the home during parties or other get-togethers.

It is our determination that the essential character of this merchandise is provided by the doormat portion of the items. This conclusion is based on the marketing of the items as doormats, the much greater bulk of the doormat components, and the fact that the items will be used as household doormats, even if this use will be primarily of a decorative nature.

It is true that EN 85.43(13) states that heading 8543 includes electronic music modules, to which the subject sound devices are akin. However, we note that musical mechanisms are also mentioned in the Explanatory Notes to the music box provision, 9208, HTSUSA, in which it is stated as follows:

Articles which incorporate a musical mechanism but which are essentially utilitarian or ornamental in function (for example, clocks, miniature wooden furniture, glass vases containing artificial flowers, ceramic figurines) are not regarded as musical boxes within the meaning of this heading. These articles are classified in the same headings as the corresponding articles not incorporating a musical mechanism.

Also, articles such as wrist watches, cups and greeting cards containing electronic musical modules are not regarded as goods of this heading. Such articles are classified in the same headings as the corresponding articles not incorporating such modules.

(Emphasis in bold is from original; emphasis by underline is added.)

This language demonstrates the intent of the drafters that the presence of a musical or sound producing device should not control the classification of articles that would normally be classified elsewhere. Customs adhered to this intent in


Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 081831, dated May 17, 1989, which classified a musical greeting card in the provision for greeting cards, and in HRL 087316, dated July 9, 1990, which classified decorative pillows not able to provide support for the head, and incorporating musical mechanisms, as other made up articles. Note that in the latter ruling, even though the pillows were not substantial enough to support the head, and thus could not be classified in the usual heading for pillows (articles of bedding), it was nevertheless determined that the above cited EN's required the articles to be classified according to the pillow components and not the musical devices.

The competing provisions that remain to be considered are heading 6304, HTSUSA, the provision for other furnishing articles (the classification effected in HRL 089085) and heading 3924, HTSUSA, the provision for, inter alia, other household articles of plastics (one of the several alternative provisions for which you argue.)

As we noted supra, the top and bottom of the mats consist of sheets of PVC which have been flocked with a man-made fiber. Note 1 to Chapter 63 states that subchapter 1 (headings 6301 to 6307) applies only to made up articles, of any textile fabric (emphasis added). The Explanatory Notes state, at page 861, that headings 6301 to 6307 cover made up textile articles of any textile fabric (woven or knitted fabric, felt, nonwovens, etc.) which are not more specifically described in other chapters of Section XI or elsewhere in the Nomenclature.

The textile flock consists of no more than short, textile fibers sprayed on the plastic. Accordingly, the flocked PVC from which the mats are made is not a fabric within the scope of Section XI. We thus agree with your contention that the mats should be classified in heading 3924, HTSUSA, the provision for other household articles of plastics rather than heading 6304, HTSUSA, the provision for other furnishing articles. A similar result was reached in HRL 950604, dated March 20, 1992, which concerned the classification of a textile flocked, PVC inflatable headrest and pouch.



The items marketed as "Screaming Halloween Mat" and "Talking Santa Doormat" are classified in subheading 3924.90.10, HTSUSA, the provision for inter alia, other household articles of plastics, other, mats, etc.. The applicable duty rate is 3.36% ad valorem.

HRL 089085, dated July 8, 1991, is hereby revoked.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division