CLA-2; CO:R:C:T 953275 ch

John M. Peterson, Esquire
Neville, Peterson & Williams
Counsellors at Law
39 Broadway
New York, New York 10006

RE: Classification of soft-sided cooler/tote bags; chief use; food and beverages are personal effects; travel, sports and similar bags; Sports Graphics; TSUS 706, 772; HTSUSA 4202, 3923.

Dear Mr. Peterson:

This is in response to your letter of November 14, 1992, requesting tariff classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA), for the "Totes Cooler Bag." A sample was provided to our office for examination and will be returned to you under separate cover.


The sample submitted is described as the "Totes Cooler Bag," style 2806. This item measures 15 inches by 7 inches by 9 inches and is a size medium. It features a top three-sided zipper closure and double handles of nylon webbing. The body is of a three layer construction consisting of an outer surface of 420D oxford nylon, an inner layer of PVC foam and a lining of frosted waterproof PVC sheeting material. The Totes Cooler Bag is used for the storage and transport of foods, beverages, and other articles requiring maintenance of a constant temperature.


Whether the Totes Cooler Bag is classified under heading 4202, HTSUSA, which provides in part for traveling and sports bags, or heading 3923, HTSUSA, which provides in part for articles for the conveyance or packing of goods, of plastics, or heading 6307, HTSUSA, which provides for other made up textile articles?


In your written submission, you draw our attention to Sports Graphics, Inc. v. United States, 806 F. Supp. 268 (CIT 1992). In that case, the Court of International Trade addressed the proper classification of merchandise substantially similar to the instant article under the Tariff Schedules of the United States (TSUS). In Sports Graphics, the Court acknowledged that in the past articles similar to the instant merchandise had been found to meet the statutory definition of "luggage." Id. at 271; See Prepac, Inc. v. United States, 78 Cust. Ct. 108, 433 F. Supp. 339 (1977) (insulated plastic picnic bags with handles and zippers classified as "luggage"); Aladdin Int'l Corp. v. United States, 13 CIT 1038 (1989) (plastic lunch box properly classified as "luggage"). However, it declined to follow this precedent, and found that an insulated cooler fit the statutory requirements for item 772.15, TSUS, which provided for articles chiefly used for preparing, serving or storing beverages. Id. at 272.

In your brief, you advance essentially three arguments in support of your position that the logic of Sports Graphics controls the classification of similar merchandise under the HTSUSA. First, you contend that in the past we have consistently classified soft-sided insulated cooler bags under heading 4202, HTSUSA, and molded or hard-sided coolers under heading 3923, HTSUSA. Since you contend that coolers cannot be classified under heading 4202, you argue that in the interests of consistency soft-sided cooler bags should be classified under heading 3923.

Second, you argue that the Court in Sports Graphics found that an insulated cooler was not ejusdem generis with the articles enumerated in the luggage provision under the TSUS, and that this finding should preclude the classification of similar merchandise under heading 4202, HTSUSA. In addition, you state that coolers have the principal function of storage; i.e. to keep food and beverages cold. The fact that coolers may be used to transport food and beverages is only of secondary importance. Hence, in light of the reasoning utilized in Sports Graphics, the "chief use" of coolers is storage and heading 4202 is inapplicable.

Finally, you point out that cooler bags contain insulating material to keep their contents cold. You assert that insulating material is not a characteristic found in the exemplars enumerated by heading 4202. Therefore, you contend that coolers cannot be considered "similar" to these exemplars, and cannot be classified under heading 4202. Accordingly, you would have us classify this article under heading 3923, which provides for articles for the conveyance or packing of goods, of plastics. In the alternative, you propose heading 6307, which encompasses other made up textile articles not more specifically provided for elsewhere in the Nomenclature.

Hard-Sided v. Soft-Sided Coolers

In your binding ruling request, you cite several of our prior rulings in support of the proposition that it is our practice to classify soft-sided cooler bags under heading 4202, and molded or hard-sided cooler bags under heading 3923. However, in HRL 950467, dated December 24, 1991, we classified a "molded plastic insulated cooler" under heading 4202. In that ruling, we stated:

In addition, HRL 082788 classified a molded plastic cooler under heading 3923. These rulings no longer represent the position of the Customs Service on this type of merchandise. (Emphasis added).

Moreover, you cite HRL 088076, dated October 24, 1990, as an example of a soft-sided insulated cooler bag classified under heading 4202. In fact, the merchandise which was the subject of that ruling was a "moulded plastic insulated picnic cooler." Despite the fact that this article was molded, we classified it under heading 4202.

We conclude that it is not our practice to distinguish between soft and hard sided coolers with respect to classification under headings 3923 and 4202.


Classification of goods under the HTSUSA is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI). GRI 1 provides that classification is determined first in accordance with the terms of the headings of the tariff and any relative section or chapter notes. Where goods cannot be classified on the basis of GRI 1, the remaining GRI will be applied in order.

Heading 4202, HTSUSA, covers:

Trunks, Suit-Cases, Vanity-Cases, Executive-Cases, Briefcases, School Satchels, Spectacle Cases, Binocular Cases, Camera Cases, Musical Instrument Cases, Gun Cases, Holsters and Similar Containers; Travelling- Bags, Toilet Bags, Rucksacks, Handbags, Shopping-Bags, Wallets, Purses, Map-Cases, Cigarette-Cases, Tobacco- Pouches, Tool Bags, Sports Bags, Bottle-Cases, Jewellery Boxes, Powder-Boxes, Cutlery Cases and Similar Containers, of Leather or of Composition Leather, of Sheeting of Plastics, of Textile Materials, of Vulcanised Fibre or of Paperboard, or Wholly or Mainly Covered with Such Materials or With Paper. (Emphasis added).

Thus, containers similar to those enumerated are classified under this heading.

Chapter 42, U.S. Additional Note 1, states:

For the purposes of heading 4202, the expression "travel, sports and similar bags" means goods, other than those falling in subheadings 4202.11 through 4202.39, of a kind designed for carrying clothing and other personal effects during travel, including backpacks and shopping bags of this heading, but does not include binocular cases, camera cases, musical instrument cases, bottle cases and similar cases. (Emphasis added).

Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, G.&C. Merriam Co. (1977), defines a "backpack" as follows:

backpack vt: to carry (food or equipment) on the back esp. in hiking. (Emphasis added).

Hence, the "backpack" exemplar in this note supports the proposition that containers used to transport food and beverages are within the purview of heading 4202. Similarly, a shopping bag is commonly used to transport food, beverages and other articles. As backpacks and shopping bags are designed to carry food and beverages, we conclude that food and beverages are "personal effects" for the purposes of Chapter 42. Moreover, an insulated cooler bag is a container similar to a backpack and shopping bag, as it is designed to carry food and beverages during travel (i.e. for picnics and other outings). Hence, the cooler bags are classifiable as travel bags pursuant to heading 4202.

We note that Sports Graphics does not operate as precedent in this case. Sports Graphics was decided under the TSUS, which has been superseded by the HTSUSA. Moreover, heading 4202, HTSUSA, and item 706, TSUS, are not analogous provisions, as heading 4202 contains language and exemplars not included in item 706. Hence, these provisions vary in scope.

Furthermore, item 772, TSUS, which provides for articles chiefly used for preparing serving, or storing food or beverages, bears no resemblance to heading 3923 or heading 6307 HTSUSA. In Sports Graphics, the Court relied on General Interpretive Rule 10(e) to resolve the dispute. This rule governed classification of goods based upon the principal of "chief use." General Interpretive Rule 10(e) was not carried over into the HTSUSA. In addition, the doctrine of chief or principle use is not at issue because containers classifiable under heading 4202 are completely excluded from headings 3923 and 6307. See Section XI, note 1(l); Chapter 39, note 2(h).

In addition, the (EN) to heading 3923 provide that:

This heading covers all articles of plastics commonly used for the packing and conveying of all kinds of products. The articles covered include:

(a) Containers such as boxes, cases, crates, sacks and bags (including cones and refuse sacks), casks, cans, carboys, bottles and flasks.

The heading also covers cups without handles having the character of containers used for the packing or conveyance of certain foodstuffs, whether or not they have a secondary use as tableware or toilet articles.

(b) Spools, cops, bobbins and similar supports.

(c) Stoppers, lids, caps and other closures.

The heading excludes, inter alia, household articles such as dustbins, and cups which are used as tableware or toilet articles and do not have the character of containers for the packing or conveyance of goods, whether or not sometimes used for such purposes, (heading 39.24), and containers of heading 42.02. (Emphasis added).

The exemplars cited in this passage appear to describe shipping articles, and not articles used for the storing or preparing of food. It follows that heading 3923 does not describe the subject merchandise.

Finally, heading 6307 is a basket provision for textile articles not more specifically described elsewhere in the Nomenclature. Heading 4202 is a more specific provision than heading 6307. As we find that the cooler bag is classifiable under heading 4202, heading 6307 is inapplicable.


The subject merchandise is classifiable under subheading 4202.92.3030, HTSUSA, which provides in part for travel and sports bags: other: with outer surface of plastic sheeting or of textile materials: travel, sports and similar bags: with outer surface of textile materials: other, other: of man-made fibers: other. The applicable rate of duty is 20 percent ad valorem. The textile quota category is 670.

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 the subject of frequent negotiations 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 issuance of the U.S. Customs Service, which is updated weekly and is available at the 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, you should contact the local Customs office prior to importing the merchandise to determine the current status of any import restraints or requirements.


John Durant, Director