CLA-2 RR:CR:TE 960430 GGD

Mr. Wallace Baker
Angler Sport Group
6619 Oak Orchard Road
Elba, NY 14058

RE: Reconsideration of HQ 959167; Plastic Fly Fishing Boxes; Additional Boxes Considered; Headings 4202 and 3924, HTSUS

Dear Mr. Baker:

This is in response to a request for reconsideration of Headquarters Ruling Letter (HQ) 959167, issued April 3, 1997, which concerned the classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), of various boxes used for fly fishing. On April 17, 1997, a conference was held among Customs Headquarters personnel and Mr. Paul Betters of Angler Sport Group. An additional written submission dated June 10, 1997, and additional samples and photographs were received and considered.


There is a wide variety of boxes at issue in this case. First, the boxes subject to HQ 959167 are described in that ruling as follows:

The samples are molded plastic boxes, the smallest of which measures approximately 2-3/4 inches in length by 2-1/8 inches in width by 7/8 of an inch in depth, and the largest of which measures approximately 5-1/2 inches in length by 4 inches in width by 1-3/8 inches in depth. Each of the items is a small case specially shaped or fitted to hold the flies used by fly fishermen. -2-

Each box has at least one hinged lid with a snap closure and a molded tab with a hole through which a chain or string may be looped to help prevent loss if the box is dropped. Some of the articles' interiors contain corrugated, molded pieces of soft plastic (into which the flies' hooks may be embedded). Those box interiors without corrugated soft plastic are subdivided into smaller compartments, each of which may have its own individual lid. Two of the styles have lids on both their top and bottom surfaces. One of these two styles has a subdivided top compartment and a bottom compartment containing corrugated soft plastic. Fly fishing boxes are said to be essential to the sport of fly fishing and specifically designed, manufactured, marketed, distributed, and purchased to allow a fly fisherman to conveniently and quickly change flies while fishing.

Mr. Betters stated during the conference at Headquarters, and again in his letter dated June 10, 1997, that in addition to the samples described above, other boxes should have been considered and classified, most of which he refers to as "general purpose utility boxes." Mr. Betters provided samples and catalog photographs of these additional boxes, which range in size from those measuring approximately 10-1/2 inches by 7 inches by 1-1/2 inches, to those measuring approximately 3-1/2 inches by 2-1/4 inches by 3/4 of an inch. The additional boxes vary as to features which indicate whether or not they are designed to be carried, to float, to open from top or bottom, to contain specific items, etc. They also differ as to the number, shapes, and sizes of compartments. Many are composed of clear, light weight plastics. Some of the boxes have no divided compartments whatsoever and can be used to hold practically anything while others have removable dividers. The articles that were the subject of HQ 959167 were classified in subheading 4202.99.9000, HTSUS, the provision for "Trunks, suitcases, vanity cases, attache cases, briefcases, school satchels, spectacle cases, binocular cases, camera cases, musical instrument cases, gun cases, holsters and similar containers...: Other: Other: Other."


1) Whether the boxes at issue in HQ 959167, and the additional boxes subsequently considered, are classifiable under heading 4202, HTSUS, as other containers similar to those specially shaped and fitted to contain specific articles. -3-

2) If not classifiable under heading 4202, HTSUS, whether the boxes are classifiable under heading 3923, as plastic articles for the conveyance or packing of goods; under heading 9507, as fishing equipment or accessories; under heading 3924, as other household articles of plastics; or under heading 3926, HTSUS, as other articles of plastics?


Classification under the HTSUS 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 HTSUS by offering guidance in understanding the scope of the headings and GRI.

Heading 4202, HTSUS, provides for "Trunks, suitcases, vanity cases...spectacle cases, binocular cases, camera cases, musical instrument cases, gun cases, holsters and similar containers; traveling bags...wallets, purses, map cases, cigarette cases, tobacco pouches...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."

As noted in HQ 959167, the EN to heading 4202 suggest that the articles covered by the first part of the heading may be of any material. The expression "similar containers" in the first part of the heading includes hat boxes, camera accessory cases, cartridge pouches, sheaths for hunting or camping knives, portable tool boxes or cases, specially shaped or internally fitted to contain particular tools with or without their accessories, etc.

Since the EN indicate that the articles covered by the second part of heading 4202 must be only of the materials specified therein (molded plastics are not specified) or their foundations must be wholly or mainly covered with such materials -4-

or with paper, we found that fly fishing boxes of molded plastics could only be classified in heading 4202 if found to be similar to those articles named in the first part of the heading, which generally are specially shaped or internally fitted to contain particular items. We also note EN (c) to heading 4202, which states that the heading does not cover:

Articles which, although they may have the character of containers, are not similar to those enumerated in the heading, for example...sweetmeat boxes, tobacco jars, ashtrays, flasks made of ceramics, glass, etc....

The fly fishing boxes of molded plastics subject to HQ 959167 are articles specially shaped and fitted to organize, store, protect, and carry flies used for fishing. See Totes, Incorporated v. United States, 69 F.3d 495, 498 (Fed. Cir. 1995), which sets forth the essential characteristics or purposes that unite the exemplar articles of heading 4202, HTSUS. We find that those fly fishing boxes--and any boxes included in the additional submission that substantially conform to those described within HQ 959167--are basically specialized forms of tackle boxes that are classifiable in heading 4202, HTSUS. Containers that are classifiable under heading 4202 are excluded from classification under heading 9507 (by note 1(d) to chapter 95, HTSUS), and excluded from any heading in chapter 39 (by note 2(ij) to chapter 39, HTSUS). We also note that EN (c) to heading 9507 states that "fishing rod cases" are examples of containers that are excluded from the heading. Thus, although fishing rods are covered under heading 9507, their cases (classifiable in heading 4202) are not. The fly fishing boxes which were the subject of HQ 959167 were, therefore, classified in subheading 4202.99.9000, HTSUSA. For a similar analysis, see HQ 951738, issued August 11, 1992.

In support of his argument that none of the fly fishing boxes, nor any of the boxes included in the additional submission, is classifiable in heading 4202, Mr. Betters' contends: 1) that heading 3923, HTSUS, is a more appropriate heading for the boxes than heading 4202; 2) that the definition of "containers" fits items described in heading 4202 (such as suitcases and other soft-covered articles designed for use in shipping) but not the subject boxes (which are inflexible, not designed for shipping, and not "containers"); and 3) that a fishing-related item should be classified with other fishing products in heading 9507, HTSUS. -5-

Mr. Betters makes reference to EN (f) to heading 4202, which indicates that the heading excludes "Tool boxes or cases, not specially shaped or internally fitted to contain particular tools with or without their accessories (generally, heading 39.26 or 73.26)." He contends that the boxes at issue are better described as "general purpose utility boxes," since they are not specially shaped or fitted to hold any particular item and are for general usage. Mr. Betters states that the articles classifiable in the second half of the first part of heading 4202 are all custom shaped and/or internally fitted to hold only one specific item and none of these items is described as a box. Heading 3923, HTSUS, provides for "Articles for the conveyance or packing of goods, of plastics; stoppers, lids, caps and other closures, of plastics." The EN to heading 3923 indicate that the heading includes boxes, cases, crates, sacks, bags, carboys, bottles, flasks, spools, cops, and bobbins. In HQ 954072, issued September 2, 1993, this office observed "[i]t is clear that this heading provides for cases and containers of bulk goods and commercial goods and not personal items." Accordingly, heading 3923, HTSUS, covers a more industrial or commercial type of container for the transport of bulk or commercial articles, as opposed to the more personal articles that containers of heading 4202 generally are designed and intended to carry. Since none of the subject boxes is designed or intended to carry bulk or commercial goods, the boxes are not classifiable in heading 3923, HTSUS.

We also note that the exemplar "boxes," appears not in the language of the heading, but in the six digit subheading breakout 3923.10, HTS, which provides for "Boxes, cases, crates and similar articles." If articles to be classified fail to meet the terms of the heading (which in this case is because the boxes are not articles for the conveyance or packing of goods), progressing to the subheading level where the specific word "boxes" appears, is inappropriate.

Mr. Betters' reference to EN (f) to heading 4202 is not relevant to the subject boxes, which are neither tool boxes nor tool cases. The EN does not function to exclude articles that are merely similar to a specially shaped or fitted container of heading 4202. The additional fact that the fly fishing boxes, unlike spectacle cases, camera cases, gun cases, etc., are fitted to contain more than one specific item, does not nullify their similarity to exemplars of the first part of heading 4202, HTSUS. -6-

As noted in HQ 959167, a specific match, functional equivalence to, or commercial interchangeability with any particular exemplar of heading 4202 is not required by the rule of ejusdem generis. With regard to whether "boxes" are considered to be "containers," we observe that several lexicographic sources prominently employ forms of the word "container" to define the word "box." For example, Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language (1972), defines "box" as "1. any of various kinds of containers, usually rectangular and lidded, made of cardboard, wood, or other stiff material; case; carton...." In this same source, the word "container" is defined as "a thing that contains or can contain something; box, crate, can, jar, etc." We find it safe to say that, although not all containers are boxes, most types of boxes would satisfy the definition of a container.

The last issue to be considered is whether any of the boxes not classified in HQ 959167, may be classified in a heading other than 4202, HTSUS, i.e., headings 3924, 3926, and 9507, HTSUS. While many of the boxes pictured and described in the submitted catalogs as "utility boxes" are substantially similar to the fly fishing boxes, or to other containers classifiable in the first part of heading 4202, there are several types of boxes that appear to be primarily designed for organizational and storage purposes. These boxes are either not particularly portable, not sufficiently sturdy (with respect to hinges, closures, thickness of material, etc.), and/or not specially shaped or internally fitted to indicate that their purpose is to protect and transport (in addition to organizing and storing) particular contents.

We find that the articles included in the "Economy Line" of plastic utility boxes manufactured by the DeWitt Plastics Division of RPM Industries, Inc., are not of a kind that are prima facie classifiable in heading 4202, HTSUS. Although the catalog materials refer to several other DeWitt Plastics "lines," the boxes of the "Economy" line are sufficiently described, pictured, and drawn in a manner allowing Customs to conclude that they are designed mainly to organize and store a wide variety of contents, not primarily to protect and transport particular items. The boxes are said to bring "famous Lite-Tuff quality to less demanding applications....available in the same sizes and compartment layouts as our shatter proof Sturdy line, but they're intended for less demanding uses...." They are further described as having plastic hinges and a friction catch. -7-

In HQ 088184, issued April 11, 1991, we classified an article identified as a "Rolyspace Sewing Box" in subheading 3924.90.5000 (now 3924.90.5500), HTSUSA, the provision for "Tableware...other household articles...of plastics: Other: Other." The item was described as a portable plastic container consisting of interlocking and removable trays with a large center compartment for storage. The article could be "unfolded" to reveal the compartments and "refolded" into a case or kit. It was noted that the case's latches were not secure and that contents were subject to loss if the item opened unexpectedly. Unlike articles classifiable under heading 4202, HTSUS, the item was found to be insufficiently sturdy for travel or use outside the home.

In HQ 951261, issued May 11, 1992, an article consisting of a box of molded plastics which contained the components of a sewing kit, was classified as a set with the essential character imparted by the plastic container. The container served to organize and store all the other components. Because the container was deemed unsuitable to withstand the rigors of travel, the article--like the plastic case subject to HQ 088184-- was also classified as an other household article of plastics in subheading 3924.90.5000, HTSUSA.

Although the boxes of the "Economy" line described above may be more sturdy than the containers subject to HQ 088184 and HQ 951261, we find that they are not designed to protect their contents during travel. The "Economy" line boxes are general purpose items primarily used in or around the home, shop, etc., to organize and store a wide variety of small, nonspecific items. The boxes are classified in subheading 3924.90.5500, HTSUSA.


The fly fishing boxes are classified in subheading 4202.99.9000, HTSUSA, the provision for "Trunks, suitcases, vanity cases...spectacle cases, binocular cases, camera cases... and similar containers...: Other: Other: Other." The general column one duty rate is 20 percent ad valorem. -8-

The plastic utility boxes identified as the "Economy" line are classified in subheading 3924.90.5500, HTSUSA, the provision for other household article of plastics. The general column one duty rate is 3.4 percent ad valorem.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division