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Newsletter

Court of Appeals For the Federal Circuit
Clarifies Use of Parts and Accessories
Provisions To Classify Merchandise

March 15, 2002

On 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 geo@tuttlelaw.com.

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.

 

Copyright © 2002 by Tuttle Law Offices. 

All rights reserved.  Information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable.  However, because of the possibility of human or mechanical error by our offices or by others, we do not guarantee the accuracy, adequacy, or completeness of any information and are not responsible for any errors, omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of such information.

 

 

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