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HQ 731853

December 26, 1989

MAR-2-05 CO:R:C:V 731853 jd


Joseph W. Dorn, Esq.
Kilpatrick & Cody
Suite 500
2501 M Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20037

RE: Country of origin marking requirements applicable to golf balls

Dear Mr. Dorn:

This is in reply to your letters of October 21, 1988, and September 13, 1989, concerning the application of country of origin marking requirements to imported golf balls. We regret the delay in responding.


According to your submission, your client is a U.S. producer and importer of golf balls. In response to a request addressed to the Area Director of Customs at the New York Seaport, your client received ruling 831116 (August 1, 1988), holding that your client's proposed country of origin marking only on the packages of imported golf balls was insufficient. You were informed marking of individual golf balls would be required.

On behalf of your client, you sent information to the Office of Commercial Fraud Enforcement, naming companies you believed were importing golf balls in violation of marking requirements. That office responded that based on ruling 730055 (January 6, 1987), which excepted golf balls from individual marking pursuant to { 134.32(d), Customs Regulations (19 CFR 134.32(d)), no action was necessary. {134.32(d) excepts from individual marking any article for which the marking of its container will reasonably indicate the origin of the article.

You believe earlier Customs rulings requiring the individual marking of golf balls in all cases were correct. You state that many golf balls are sold in pro shops where the proprietor opens packages of balls and sells balls individually. Also, if packages open in transit, you state that balls would be sold individually, not discarded. Accordingly, you have requested reconsideration of the position taken in ruling 730055. You refer to ruling 730935 (January 10, 1989; published as C.S.D. 89-68), which required the individual marking of pads of stick-on
note paper in support of your request.


Are golf balls eligible for the exception to individual country of origin marking available pursuant to { 134.32(d), Customs Regulations?


Section 304 of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C. 1304), requires that, unless excepted, every article of foreign origin (or its container) imported into the United States shall be marked in a conspicuous place as legibly, indelibly and permanently as the nature of the article (or container) will permit in such a manner as to indicate to the ultimate purchaser in the United States the English name of the country of origin of the article. Section 134.1(d), Customs Regulations (19 CFR 134.1(d)), defines ultimate purchaser as "generally the last person in the U.S. who will receive the article in the form in which it was imported."

Section 134.32, Customs Regulations (19 CFR 134.32), sets forth a list of circumstances which except articles from the requirement that they be individually marked. One such circumstance of relevance to the golf balls under consideration is { 134.32(d), "[a]rticles for which the marking of the containers will reasonably indicate the origin of the articles".

Customs has previously ruled on the marking requirements applicable to golf balls. T.D. 55359(1) (March 23, 1961), was primarily concerned with the color and size of marking appearing on balls, but stated that the requirement to individually mark balls was subject to exception. ORR Ruling 694-70 (August 31, 1970), stated that the possibility balls may be removed from their containers prior to sale was sufficient to justify requiring individual marking. This position was upheld in ORR Ruling 72-0315 (September 19, 1972). ORR Ruling 72-0287 (August 25, 1972), excepted from individual marking golf balls imported for sale directly to driving ranges.

Ruling 730055 (January 6, 1987), held that golf balls were eligible for an exception to individual marking. "We are of the opinion that 19 CFR 134.32(d) which provides for an exception from the individual marking requirements is applicable to golf balls which are sold to golfers in properly marked sealed containers, unless it is determined by the district director at the place of entry that the items will be sold or distributed individually or will otherwise reach the ultimate purchaser without proper marking."

After a thorough review of this matter, and a careful consideration of ruling 730055, we do not believe it is necessary to revoke that ruling. Ruling 730055 already provides that in instances where the district director at the place of entry has any doubts that golf balls will reach ultimate purchasers in their marked containers, he may determine the exception of { 134.32(d) to be inapplicable. In such instances he may require individual marking. For example, an importer may be a department store with a sporting goods section which sells golf balls in sealed containers only and does not maintain a "fish bowl" of individual balls as you state many pro shops do. This scenario would justify an exception to individual marking. However, a pro shop selling individual balls, or perhaps a country club providing golf balls to its playing members, would be required to individually mark golf balls.


Golf balls imported in containers marked so as to reasonably indicate the origin of the balls may be excepted from individual marking, provided Customs officials at the port of entry are satisfied the balls will reach ultimate purchasers in their original unopened containers.


John Durant

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