March 5, 2002, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed
an important “parts and accessories” decision by the Court of International
Trade in Rollerblade v. U.S.,
Slip op. 01-1049.
Rollerblade Inc. imported protective gear designed, tested, manufactured
and marketed solely for use with in-line roller skates. The company
classified the protective gear as an "accessory” to its in-line
skates under subheading 9506.70.2090, free of duty, at the time
of filing the entry. Customs, however, rejected the “accessory”
provision and, instead, classified the protective gear as residual
“other” sports equipment under subheading 9506.99.6080 of the HTSUS,
which carried a 4% ad valorem duty rate. Rollerblade protested
the change in classification, but the protest was denied by Customs.
Rollerblade then contested the denial of the protest before the
Court of International Trade, arguing that Customs erred in interpreting
the scope of the term “accessory.”
In sustaining Customs’ classification of the protective gear, the Court
of International Trade said that the dictionary definition of
the term "accessory" restricted the term to items that
relate “of” or “to” the main article with which they are used.
Rollerblade, 116 F. Supp. 2d at 1253. In applying this definition,
the Court of International Trade concluded that the protective gear
did not constitute “accessories” of the in-line skates because they
did not bear a direct relationship to the skates. The Court of
International Trade noted that the protective gear did not attach
to the skates, but rather fastened to the person. The Court also
said that the protective gear merely related to the activity of
skating, not to the skates. As a result, the Court determined that
the protective gear was indeed classified under the residual “other”
sports equipment provision found in subheading 9506.99.
On appeal, Rollerblade argued that the protective gear might constitute
a “part.” However, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
defined a “part” as “an essential element or constituent; integral
portion [of the whole, but] which can be separated, replaced, etc.”
Webster’s New World Dictionary 984 (3d College Ed. 1988).
Thus, the court concluded that the term “part,” like the term “accessory,”
must have a direct relationship to the primary article, rather than
to the general activity in which the primary article is used.
Like Rollerblade, other importers and brokers often classify imported
articles under a provision for parts and accessories for the article
with which they are used. Under the Rollerblade decision,
however, this classification may be incorrect unless the imported
article relates directly to the main article with which it is intended
to be used, or is an essential element to the article with which
it will be used, but which can be separated and/or replaced.
If the imported merchandise does not meet this test, then it is
likely that the article should be classified elsewhere.
Importers have a legal responsibility to exercise reasonable care when
classifying merchandise and making entry under the Customs Modernization
Act of 1993. For assistance in classifying your merchandise, please
check with your licensed Customs Broker, or contact us.
If you have any questions on any of the issues raised in this newsletter, please contact George R. Tuttle, III at (415) 288-0428 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
George R. Tuttle, III is an attorney with the Law Offices of George R. Tuttle in San Francisco. The information in this article is general in nature and is not intended to constitute legal advice or to create an attorney-client relationship with respect to any event or occurrence, and may not be considered as such.
by Tuttle Law Offices.
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