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HQ 732489

October 11, 1989

MAR-2-05 CO:R:C:V 732489 jd


Beth C. Ring, Esq.
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg
505 Park Avenue
New York, New York 10022-1106

RE: Country of origin marking requirements applicable to imported eyeglass frame components

Dear Ms. Ring:

This is in reply to your letter of June 15, 1989, concerning the application of country of origin marking requirements to eyeglass frame components imported from Mexico to Puerto Rico for further processing.


According to your submission, your client imports from Mexico eyeglass frame components, i.e., frame fronts with hinges, temples, screws and demonstration lenses. In Puerto Rico, the components are subjected to further processing and manufacturing as follows:

Temples- Components are (1) manually cleaned and polished; (2) trimmed according to style specifications; (3) machined to accommodate attachment of trim based on style specifications; (4) mitered and adjusted to properly fit with specified frame fronts; (5) mechanically engraved with size, style, color, length and other required information; (6) manually polished; (7) heated, reformed and reshaped to conform with style specifications and shape around the ear; and (8) aligned and adjusted. At this point, temple components are ready for assembly with specified frame fronts.

Fronts- Components are (1) heated, reformed and reshaped to ensure proper meniscus curve for the lenses; (2) inspected, cleaned and polished; (3) trimmed of excess material and further trimmed according to style specifications; (4) mitered and adjusted to fit with specified temples; and (5) assembled with the temples.

At this point the pantoscopic angle of the frame is determined, a protective gloss coating is applied and demonstration lenses are marked and inserted. The frames are
then adjusted and calibrated and stamped with requisite optical specifications. A final inspection and cleaning is performed before the frames are encapsulated for protection.

You raise two grounds in your request for an exception to individual marking of components: (1) your client substantially transforms the components by further processing and manufacture; and (2) your client necessarily knows the country of origin of the components.


Are eyeglass frame components subjected to the processing and manufacturing described above substantially transformed so as to make the processor/manufacturer the ultimate purchaser of the components for country of origin marking purposes?

If the above issue is decided in the affirmative, do the components also qualify for an exception to marking of their outermost container reaching the processor/manufacturer because that party necessarily knows the origin of the components?


Section 304 of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C. 1304), provides that 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 134.35, Customs Regulations (19 CFR 134.35), provides that an article used in the U.S. in manufacture which results in an article having a name, character, or use differing from that of the imported article will be considered substantially transformed, and therefore the manufacturer or processor in the U.S. who converts or combines the imported article into the different article will be considered the ultimate purchaser of the imported article within the contemplation of 19 U.S.C. 1304(a). Accordingly, the article shall be excepted from marking. However, in accordance with 19 U.S.C. 1304(b) and { 134.22, Customs Regulations (19 CFR 134.22), the outermost container of the imported article shall be marked to indicate the country of origin of the article.

Section 134.32(h), Customs Regulations (19 CFR 134.32(h)), states that articles may be excepted from individual marking if the ultimate purchaser must necessarily know the country of origin by reason of the circumstances of importation or by reason of the character of the articles. Pursuant to 19 U.S.C. 1304(b),
articles excepted from individual marking for either of these reasons need not have their outermost containers marked either.

Whether a substantial transformation has occurred depends upon a comparison of the article before the processing which is claimed to effect such transformation and the article after the processing. It is a well established principle of customs law that in order for a substantial transformation to be found, an article having a new name, character or use must emerge from the processing. See United States v. Gibson-Thomsen Co. Inc., 27 C.C.P.A. 267, C.A.D. 98 (1940),

Customs has previously ruled on the marking consequences of various levels of processing performed to eyeglass frame components. In ruling 728504 (October 15, 1985), Customs found that "the assembly of imported frames does not constitute a substantial transformation of the item sufficient to make the importer the ultimate purchaser and that in such case, country of origin marking would be required on the imported fronts and temples." Recognizing that each case must be decided on its own facts, the ruling continued, "[w]here there is additional processing performed (i.e. more that [sic] mere assembly of the fronts and temples) Customs might find a substantial transformation, depending on the particular circumstances involved."

Customs ruling 710338 (July 17, 1979; published as C.S.D. 80-43), involved the importation of frame components from Italy in a neutral and unfinished condition. The fronts and temples were subjected to multi-step processing operations including cleaning, trimming, machining, engraving, milling, attachment of hinges, drilling of holes, heating and reshaping, and assembly. After assembly, a multi-step dyeing process was used to color the frame. Citing the fact that the fronts and temples could not be used in their condition as imported except by a producer of frames, and that the components must undergo substantial adjustment to accommodate lenses and fit the human face, Customs determined that a substantial transformation of the components took place. The processor was the ultimate purchaser of the components.

Those two rulings established ends to a spectrum- mere assembly to multi-step processing of unfinished components. The facts present in your client's situation fall somewhere in between, but we believe the processing your client performs is sufficient to tip the scales towards a finding of substantial transformation. Your client changes the shape of each component in a significant way, albeit some of the changes in shape are subtle. Making the fronts ready for insertion of lenses and the temples ready to fit over the ears are essential steps in the manufacture of a frame. Accordingly, your client is considered
the ultimate purchaser of the frame components and the finished frames that result from the processing he performs need not be marked.

Since the frame components are already excepted from individual marking by virtue of your client being the ultimate purchaser, the additional exception that could be gained by operation of { 134.32(h) is an exception from marking the outermost container of frame components that reaches your client. The requirements for application of { 134.32(h) are that the ultimate purchaser must necessarily know the country of origin by reason of the circumstances of importation or by reason of the character of the article. There is nothing so unique in the character of eyeglass frame components that indicates their origin. Further, your statement that the components are "products of Mexico" is insufficient grounds for granting an exception to marking the outermost container. Without additional proof that your client necessarily knows the components truly are of Mexican origin as opposed to possibly just shipped from a Mexican dealer, the outermost container reaching your client must be marked to indicate the origin of the components.

Examination of the sample finished frame with demonstration lenses has raised an additional issue. An adhesive sticker on one lens is imprinted "LUNETTES L'AMY PARIS". Lunettes is the French word for eyeglasses. Section 134.36(b), Customs Regulations (19 CFR 134.36(b)), states, "[a]n exception from marking shall not apply to any article or retail container bearing any words, letters, names, or symbols described in { 134.46 or 134.47 which imply that an article was made or produced in a country other than the actual country of origin." Further, { 11.13, Customs Regulations (19 CFR 11.13), prohibits importation of articles which bear, "representations, including words or other symbols tending falsely to describe or represent the articles." In our opinion, the effect of the words on the sticker is to represent the eyeglass frames as a product of France. If your client continues to affix these stickers to completed frames, the words "Assembled in U.S. of Mexican [or other country] Components" must appear in close proximity to the word "PARIS". Alternately, your client could discontinue use of the sticker, or any other word or phrase potentially misleading, in which case the exception to marking the frames would continue to apply.


Based on the above considerations, the processing performed by your client on the imported eyeglass frame components constitutes a substantial transformation. Accordingly, your client is the ultimate purchaser of the components and, providing
any misleading references to places not the place of origin of the frames are removed, no country of origin marking need appear on the completed frames. Further, absent additional evidence that your client necessarily knows the origin of the components, the outermost container of the components reaching your client must be marked to indicate the origin of the contents.


Marvin M. Amernick

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