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HQ 085855

August 9, 1990

CLA-2 CO:R:C:G 085855 STB


TARIFF No.: 9502.10.80

Ned H. Marshak, Esq.
Sharretts, Paley, Carter & Blauvelt, P.C. Sixty-seven Broad Street
New York, N.Y. 10004

RE: Reconsideration of New York Ruling Letter 842930 concerning classification of a "Beetlejuice" Doll

Dear Mr. Marshak:

This letter is in response to your request for a reconsideration of New York Ruling Letter (NYRL) 842930, dated October 25, 1989, regarding the classification of a "Beetlejuice" talking toy doll under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA). A sample figure, as well as tapes of the "Beetlejuice" movie and television show were submitted for our review.


In NYRL 842930, dated October 25, 1989, that office classified a "Beetlejuice" talking doll under subheading 9502.10.80, HTSUSA, which provides for dolls representing only human beings, whether or not dressed, other, other, other. The applicable duty rate for that subheading is 12% ad valorem.

The sample article measures approximately 16 inches in height and has a plastic head. The features on the face include blue eyes surrounded by heavy dark circles, wide lips surrounding large teeth, and white hair standing on end. The face is colored to give the appearance of a "five o'clock shadow", i.e., an unshaved appearance. The head may be twisted and released by a button in the back of the neck. This allows for simulation of a spinning head. The lower body is completely stuffed while the upper body has a small amount of stuffing surrounding a mechanism that provides audio sounds and the special effect of allowing the head to spin in a 360 degree circle. Imbedded within the upper torso in the back of the doll is a retractable string attached to a plastic ring. The ring resembles a black snake. When the ring is pulled, it activates the vocal mechanism in the torso
of the doll and the doll vocalizes phrases from the movie "Beetlejuice." The doll is clothed in a black and white striped suit, a yellow shirt, a red tie, and black plastic boots.

It is your contention that the figure should be classified under subheading 9503.41.10, HTSUSA, the provision for stuffed animals or non-human creatures.


What is the proper classification of the subject figure?


The General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's) set forth the legal framework in which merchandise is to be classified under the HTSUSA. GRI 1 requires that classification be determined first according to the terms of the headings of the tariff and any relevant section or chapter notes and, unless otherwise required, according to the remaining GRI's taken in order.

Heading 9502, HTSUSA, provides for "Dolls representing only human beings and parts and accessories thereof." Explanatory Note 95.02 states that "The heading includes not only dolls designed for the amusement of children, but also dolls intended for decorative purposes (e.g., boudoir dolls, mascot dolls), or for use in Punch and Judy or marionette shows, or those of the caricature type. The Explanatory Note further states that dolls "may be jointed and contain mechanisms which permit limb, head or eye movements as well as reproductions of the human voice, etc...."

Your contention that the "Beetlejuice" figure should not be classified as a doll is based on the argument that the figure does not represent a human being, but rather is a representation of what is supposed to be a "ghost" from the movie "Beetlejuice."

Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 086088, dated February 21, 1990, states the following:

At their joint meeting on May 4, 1985, the Nomenclature Committee and the Interim Harmonized System Committee decided that angels and devils could not be regarded as dolls within the meaning of heading 9502. This decision was based on the argument that this heading restricts its contents to dolls representing only human beings. The majority of the participants adopted the viewpoint that angels and devils should be regarded as toys under heading 9503.

It is Customs position that the intent of the committees in reaching this conclusion is to deny the doll classification to those figures which possess non-human characteristics that are immediately apparent to the casual observer. Where the non-human feature(s) can only be discovered by close examination, the doll classification may be appropriate. The phrase "close examination" may encompass the need to look closely, the need to remove the clothes of the figure, or perhaps even the need of the observer to guess as to whether a feature that appears to be non-human is, in actuality, such a feature. Most angels and devils possess readily apparent non-human features, i.e., halos, large wings, visible horns, pointed tails, etc. However, if a figure is marketed as an angel or devil, and yet appears human to the casual observer, then, again, the doll classification may be appropriate.

It is our determination that doll classification is appropriate for the "Beetlejuice" figure; the above test supports this determination. The figure possesses no features which are both clearly non-human and readily apparent to the casual observer. The black circles around the eyes, the odd hair, etc., could also be attributes of a human in bad health and you concede this fact in your correspondence of April 17, 1990. One can only guess as to whether these features are intended to be non-human. The spinning head feature requires the pushing of a hidden button in the back of the figure. All these features, therefore, fail the "close examination" test set forth above. The fact that the spinning head feature is apparent on the packaging does not affect the classification. As noted above, it is the appearance of the figure itself, and not the marketing, which is important.

In support of your position, you argue that the determination of whether a figure represents a human or non-human must be based on the perception of a "casual observer" "who is most likely to purchase the article." The argument continues that the person most likely to purchase the article is one who has seen the movie and/or the television show and thus will know that the figure represents a ghost; therefore the doll classification is not appropriate.

We disagree. Devils and angels are established in mass popular culture, and are recognized throughout the world as non- human creatures. In order not to be classified as dolls, figures representing devils and angels, as well as other creatures, must possess appendages and features which immediately, at first glance, identify them as non-human. It should not be necessary to see a particular movie to identify the creature as non-human.

It is quite likely that many individuals who have never seen the "Beetlejuice" movie or the cartoon will buy this doll; these people, especially children, may be attracted by the odd looks, the talking ability, and the spinning head feature. It is not enough that a figure possess odd features that demonstrate "something is not right"; it must be readily apparent that the figure represents a "non-human" creature, without the necessity of knowledge of a particular storyline.

Having determined that the subject figure is properly classifiable as a doll, we also note that it is a doll that is not stuffed. The upper body, from just below the waist to the bottom of the neck, has a completely hard feeling to it. The mechanisms that provide the special effects completely dominate the upper body. In fact, it is difficult to determine that there is any stuffing present in the upper body whatsoever, without perhaps, cutting the doll open.


The subject "Beetlejuice" figure is properly classifiable under subheading 9502.10.80, HTSUSA, the provision for dolls representing only human beings and parts and accessories thereof, dolls whether or not dressed, other, other, other. The applicable duty rate is 12% ad valorem. NYRL 842930 is affirmed.


John Durant, Director

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