CLA-2 RR:TC:FC 958924 ALS

Port Director of Customs
U.S. Customs Service
110 S. Fourth St.
Room 154
Minneapolis, MN 55401

RE: Request for Further Review of Protest No. 3501-95-100209, dated May 25, 1995, Concerning Protective Wrist Guards Designed for Use in the Sport of In-line Skating

Dear Mr. Gonzalez:

This ruling is on a protest that was filed against your decisions between February 24, 1995 and May 19, 1995, concerning multiple entries covering protective wrist guards designed for use in the sport of in-line skating.


The articles under consideration, which are referred to as wrist guards, are fabricated from a combination of knit and mesh man-made fibers which provide the base of the guards, synthetic leather stitched across the front outer surface of the guards, velcro fastener straps, and molded plastic inserts in the front and back thereof. Two models of the articles under consideration do not have sheathes and fourchettes which cover the fingers. They have thumb holes and they only cover the wrists and upper part of the hands. The remaining model of the articles under consideration have sheathes with fourchettes which partially cover the fingers.


What is the classification of the subject articles imported for use in the sport of in-line skating? - 2 -


Classification of merchandise under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA) is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's) taken in order. GRI 1 provides that the classification is determined first in accordance with the terms of the headings and any relative section and chapter notes. If GRI 1 fails to classify the goods and if the headings and legal notes do not otherwise require, the remaining GRI's are applied, taken in order. The articles under consideration are protective wrist guards which are utilized to protect the wearer while engaged in the sport of in-line skating. In considering the proper classification of these items which do not have sheathes and fourchettes, we reviewed subheadings 9506.70.2000 and 9506.99.6080, HTSUSA. The first noted subheading provides for "ice skates and roller skates, including skating boots with skates attached; parts and accessories thereof;." We note, without discussion, that the subject articles are not skates, skating boots with skates attached or parts of skates. Thus, in order for the protective wrist guards to be classified in subheading 9506.70.2000, HTSUSA, they must be considered as accessories of skates or skating boots. Since one of the models of the articles under consideration has some of the same features as gloves, i.e., sheathes and fourchettes which partially cover the fingers, we also considered the applicability thereto of subheading 6216.00.4600, HTSUSA, which provides for "Gloves, mittens and mitts: Other: Of man-made fibers: other gloves, mitten and mitts, all the foregoing specially designed for use in sports,..."

As noted in Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 956582, dated March 14, 1995, an accessory is an article that is related to the primary article and is intended for use solely or principally with that primary article. The articles in that case were bands of knit terry cloth with a protective insert of either rigid plastic or closed-cell foam rubber. They were for use in various sports, e.g., baseball, football. These items were marketed in a similar manner to the instant protective gear insofar as they were to help avoid injuries and bruises. It was proffered therein that these bands were accessories to the sports clothing utilized in playing the particular game. We concluded that the bands were not related or connected to a primary article and were not intended for the sole or principal use as a clothing accessory and that they were protective equipment classifiable in subheading 9506.99.6080, HTSUSA. - 3 - We have noted that the term "accessory" is not defined in either the HTSUSA or the Explanatory Notes to the Harmonized System (EN). We, however, have repeatedly noted that an accessory is, in addition to being an article related to a primary article, is used solely or principally with that article. We have also noted that an accessory is not necessary to enable the goods with which they are used to fulfill their intended function. They are of secondary importance, not essential of themselves. They, however, must contribute to the effectiveness of the principal article (e.g., facilitate the use or handling of the principal article, widen the range of its uses, or improve its operation). (See HRL 953896, dated February 2, 1994 and HRL 950166, dated November 8, 1991). We have also noted that Webster's Dictionary defines an accessory as an object or device that is not essential in itself but adds to the beauty, convenience, or effectiveness of something else.

While the subject guards protect the wearer from injury, they do not contribute to the effectiveness of the in-line skates by making them faster or smoother, or add any other capabilities to the skates. In other words, even though the protective gear may have a psychological effect on the wearer, it does not enhance the capabilities of the skates.

In order to ascertain first hand the method of marketing of this gear we visited several major sporting goods stores and a warehouse store. We observed the method of display and spoke to the professional staff in the sporting goods stores. We were unable to confirm that the gear is marketed as accessories to in-line skates. The items are marketed as protective gear or protective equipment. Retail advertising confirms such marketing method. While the packaging for the protective gear indicates that it is recommended for in-line skating, there was a lack of reference to such gear on the boxes containing such skates and the owner's manuals and other material in such boxes, when referring to such gear, referred to it as protective gear and not accessories to the skates. We also noted that the literature from some manufacturers indicates that the gear was suitable for other sports, e.g., skateboarding. This empirical observation confirmed our prior opinion that this protective gear is not an accessory to in-line skates.

We next compared subheading 9506.70.2000, HTSUSA, to other subheadings in heading 9506. While there is a similarity among these subheadings, we noted one significant difference. Whereas - 4 -

the other subheadings generally include equipment related to a specific sport or activity, e.g., baseball articles and equipment, in their coverage, subheading 9506.70.2000, HTSUSA, does not include a provision for equipment. Since we must presume that the drafters of that tariff provision intended to omit a reference to equipment and that it was not an oversight, we considered what other subheading might be applicable to the subject gear. We also concluded that the protective gear, while not necessary for the sport of in-line skating, was specially designed protective equipment for that sport.

In Cruger's inc. v. United States, 12 Ct. Customs Appeals. 516,519, T.D. 40730(1925), the Court indicated "the term equipment applies to those articles that are so essential or necessary to the game as to make it impossible to play the game without them." It further noted that the term "equipment" included inanimate objects ordinarily used and needed or required for the safe, proper, and efficient taking of physical exercise and efficient playing of any indoor or outdoor ball game or sport. Subsequently, in Slazengers, Inc. v. United States, 33 U.S. Customs Ct. Rpts. 338, Abs. 58323 (1954), the Court concluded that articles which serve "no other purpose but to aid in a safer and more efficient game...are within the designation of 'equipment'." In American Astral Corporation v. United States, 62 U.S. Customs Ct. Rpts. 563, 571, C.D. 3827 (1969), after referencing a tariff classification study, the Court concluded "...the statutory designation of "equipment" is satisfied once it is shown that the article is specially designed for use in the game or sport." (See also Nichimen Co., v. United States, 72 U.S. Customs Ct. Rpts. 130, C.D. 4514 (1974)).

Consequently, "equipment" for purposes of the sports provision of heading 9506 is generally considered to include not only those articles that are essential or necessary to the play of a game or sport but the gear specially designed for use by the player in connection with the game or sport. Accordingly, the instant protective gear, being specially designed for use in connection with the sport of in-line skating, is skating equipment for tariff purposes and is classifiable in the residual provision of heading 9506.

Wrist guards, with sheathes and fourchettes, for use in the sport of in-line skating were the subject of New York Ruling Letter (NYRL) 895546, dated March 28, 1994. That ruling, which - 5 -

held that these articles are classifiable in the provision for gloves, is hereby affirmed as to such articles when separately imported. Those items, when imported in a set composed of various protective items for use in the sport of in-line skating, are, as noted in Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 957396, dated December 12, 1994, classifiable with the other items of the set. That ruling is hereby affirmed as to such finding but not as to the subheading specified in the holding. That ruling is one of several rulings which are being modified pursuant to section 625(c)(1) of the Tariff Act of 1930, (19 U.S.C. 1625 (c)(1)), as amended by section 623 of Title VI (Customs Modernization) of the North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act (Pub. L. 103-182, 107 Stat. 2057). The rulings, once modified, will bring the rulings noted therein in conformity with other rulings on the subject, e.g., HRL 958387, HRL 958456, and HRL 958710, dated April 8, 1996.


Protective wrist guards without fourchettes and sheathes, and protective wrist guards with fourchettes and sheathes when imported as part of a set with other protective gear, which are composed of man-made fibers and plastics materials, and binding straps with velcro , which are primarily designed to be used in the sport of in-line skating, are classifiable in subheading 9506.99.6080, HTSUSA. Merchandise so classifiable was subject to a general rate of duty of 4.5 percent ad valorem in 1995.

Protective wrist guards with fourchettes and sheathes, when separately imported, are classifiable in subheading 6216.00.4600, HTSUSA. Merchandise so classifiable is subject to a general rate of duty of 5.2 percent ad valorem in 1995.

Since the classification indicated above is the same as the classification under which the entries were liquidated, you are instructed to deny the protest in full.

A copy of this decision should be attached to the Customs Form 19 and provided to the protestant as part of the notice of action on the protest.

In accordance with Section 3A(11)(b) of Customs Directive 099 3553-065, dated August 4, 1993, Subject: Revised Protest Directive, this decision should be provided by your office to the protestant no later than 60 days from the date of this letter. - 6 -

Any reliquidation of the entries in accordance with this decision must be accomplished prior to the mailing of the decision. Sixty days from the date of the decision the Office of Regulations and Rulings will take steps to make the decision available to Customs personnel via the Custom Rulings Module in ACS and the public via the Diskette Subscription Service, Freedom of Information Act and other public access channels.


John Durant, Director
Tariff Classification
Appeals Division