CLA-2 RR:CR:TE 960344 GGD
Ms. Patricia Rucker
Sears Merchandise Group
3333 Beverly Road, BC 204-A
Hoffman Estates, Illinois 60179
RE: Attache Cases with Outer Surface of Plastics
Dear Ms. Rucker:
This letter is in response to your requests of August 8 and August 30, 1996, concerning the classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA) of two attache cases manufactured in Hong Kong. Samples were submitted with your request. We regret the delay in responding.
The two samples, identified by style numbers 55331 and 55332 and described as “Vinyl Attache Case” and “Leather Attache Case,” respectively, each consist of a standard attache case that is manufactured of a plywood box frame. Each case measures approximately 18 inches in length by 13 inches in width by 4-1/4 inches in depth. Each case also contains a foam plastic material for padding.
Style no. 55331 is completely covered with a sheeting composed of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics that is backed with a woven textile material. The PVC plastic sheeting comprises the outer surface of both the material and the case. Style no.
55332 is completely covered with a sheeting that is composed of three layers, the outermost of which is embossed to simulate a “top grain” leather. Customs laboratory report number 2-96-30585-001, dated November 8, 1996, states that the outermost layer (which comprises the exterior surface of the case) is composed of a nitro-cellulose type of plastic sheeting which measures approximately 0.02 millimeter in thickness. The middle layer is composed of a composition leather which measures approximately 0.8 millimeter in thickness. Backing the middle layer is a third (innermost) layer that is composed of a nonwoven textile fabric of olefin synthetic fibers.
Whether the attache cases are classified in subheading 4202.11.00, HTSUSA, as cases with outer surface of leather, of composition leather, or of patent leather; or in subheading 4202.12.20, HTSUSA, as cases with outer surface of plastics.
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.
Among other goods, heading 4202, HTSUSA, provides for “Trunks…attache cases, briefcases…and similar containers; traveling bags…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.”
In pertinent part, the EN to heading 4202 state that:
Subject to Notes 1 and 2 to this Chapter, the articles covered by the first part of the heading [i.e., the part preceding the semicolon] may be of any material….
The articles covered by the second part of the heading [i.e., the part following the semicolon] must, however, be only of the materials specified therein or must be wholly or mainly covered with such materials or with paper (the foundation may be of wood, metal, etc.)….
As noted above, attache cases are exemplars that are named in the first part of heading 4202, HTSUSA, and therefore, may be composed of any material. Each attache case at issue is covered by heading 4202, HTSUSA. For purposes of classification at the subheading level, however, the language of the subheadings requires that the material composition of each case’s outer surface be determined. In pertinent part, subheading 4202.12.20, HTSUSA, provides for “…attache cases…and similar containers: With outer surface of plastics or of textile materials: With outer surface of plastics.” With respect to style 55331, whose outer surface is composed of textile fabric that has been coated with plastics, we note that Additional U.S. Note 2 to Chapter 42, HTSUSA, states:
For purposes of classifying articles under subheadings 4202.12, 4202.22, 4202.32, and 4202.92, articles of textile fabric impregnated, coated, covered or laminated with plastics (whether compact or cellular) shall be regarded as having an outer surface of textile material or of plastic sheeting, depending upon whether and the extent to which the textile constituent or the plastic constituent makes up the exterior surface of the article.
As stated in the FACTS section above, style 55331 is completely covered with a sheeting composed of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics. Although this plastic constituent is backed with a woven textile material, it is the PVC plastic sheeting which faces outward, comprising the exterior surface of the case. We find that style 55331 has an outer surface of plastics and is therefore classified in subheading 4202.12.2010, HTSUSA.
To determine the classification of style 55332, whose outer surface is composed of three layers consisting of nitro-cellulose plastic sheeting, composition leather, and textile fabric, we consider not only subheading 4202.12.20, but also subheading 4202.11.00, HTSUSA, which provides for: “…attache cases…and similar containers: With outer surface of leather, of composition leather, or of patent leather.” Since the outermost layer of style 55332 (which comprises the exterior surface of the case) is composed not of leather or of composition leather, but of plastic sheeting, we look to whether the material which comprises the case’s outer surface may be deemed “patent leather.”
Among other merchandise, heading 4109, HTSUSA, covers “Patent leather and patent laminated leather….” In pertinent part, the EN to heading 4109 state that the heading covers:
(1) Patent leather, which is leather coated or covered with a varnish or lacquer or with a pre-formed sheet of plastics and which has a lustrous mirror-like surface. (Emphasis added.)
The applied varnish or lacquer may be pigmented or non-pigmented and may have a basis of:
. . .
(b) cellulose derivatives (e.g., nitro-cellulose);
. . .
The pre-formed sheet of plastics applied to leather is generally made from polyurethane of polyvinyl chloride.
The surface of the products of this group is not necessarily smooth. It may be embossed to imitate certain skins (crocodile, lizard, etc.) or artificially crushed, crinkled or grained. It must, however, retain a lustrous mirror-like appearance. (Emphasis added.)
The thickness of the coating or the sheet does not exceed 0.15 mm.
. . .
Patent laminated leather also known in the trade as patent coated leather, which is leather covered with a pre-formed sheet of plastics of a thickness exceeding 0.15 mm but less than half the total thickness and having the lustrous mirror-like appearance of patent leather. (Emphasis added.)
Although the outermost plastic layer of style 55332 has been applied to a layer of composition leather, the surface layer of plastics has been embossed to more effectively simulate leather. The surface does not possess, however, the “lustrous mirror-like appearance” that is repeatedly emphasized in the EN above as indicative of both patent leather and patent laminated leather. In light of the fact that the outer
surface of style 55332 is not composed of patent leather or of patent laminated leather, and of the fact that the outermost layer is composed of plastics, style 55332 is classified in subheading 4202.12.2010, HTSUSA.
The attache cases identified by style numbers 55331 and 55332 are classified in subheading 4202.12.2010, HTSUSA, the provision for “Trunks…attache cases, briefcases…and similar containers: With outer surface of plastics or of textile materials: With outer surface of plastics, Structured, rigid on all sides: Attache cases, briefcases and similar containers." The general column one duty rate is 20 percent ad valorem.
John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division