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HQ 087759

December 24, 1990

CLA-2 CO:R:C:G 087759 KWM


TARIFF NO.: 3920.20.0000

Mr. Young H. Lee
Union Incorporated
320 Kalmus Drive
Costa Mesa, California 92626

RE: Revocation of Headquarters Ruling Letter 085524; Printed polypropylene film; Printed matter; Merely incidental to the primary use of the goods; Note 2 to Section VII, HTSUSA; Packing container; Plastic sheet.

Dear Mr. Lee:

On December 28, 1989, this office issued to you a tariff classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA) for certain printed polypropylene film imported from South Korea and used as packaging material for ramen noodles. Since that ruling was issued, we have reconsidered our position regarding the classification of printed polypropylene film and have determined that Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 085524 is incorrect. Therefore, we are hereby revoking that ruling letter and re-classifying the merchandise as explained below.


HRL 085524 describes the subject merchandise as follows:

The instant merchandise is imported in the form of printed polypropylene film in roll form, approximately 6- 7/8 inches in width. The film is printed with product information such as instructions for making the ramen noodles, menu suggestions, the name of the product ("Smack Ramen Oriental Noodle Soup"), the net weight and the ingredients. The film has magnetic ink marks which can be read by an electric eye to trigger a mechanism to cut the film to the desired length.

After importation, the printed polypropylene is cut into lengths and used to package ramen noodles. In your request for a binding ruling, you suggest that the goods be classified under heading 3923, HTSUSA, as articles for the packing and conveyance of goods. HRL 085524 held that the goods were not "containers" of heading 3923, HTSUSA, but were classified in heading 4911, HTSUSA, as printed matter. In the alternative, if the goods were imported without printing, they would be classified in heading 3920, HTSUSA, as plastic film of polymers of propylene. That holding was based on a finding that the printing on the plastic film was "not
merely incidental to the primary use of the goods" as indicated by Note 2 to Section VII, HTSUSA.


Are the goods classified under heading 4911, HTSUSA, as other printed material?

If not, how are the goods classified?


Classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA) is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's). The systematic detail of the harmonized system is such that virtually all goods are classified by application of GRI 1, that is, according to the terms of the headings of the tariff schedule and any relevant Section or Chapter Notes.

The central question here is whether or not the printing found on the polypropylene film is "merely incidental" to the primary use of the goods, as indicated by Note 2 to Section VII, HTSUSA. Contrary to the findings in HRL 085524, we now believe that it is. There is no question that the primary use of the film in this case is as a wrapper for ramen noodle preparations. In deciding whether or not the printing is merely incidental, we look to the Explanatory Notes, which constitute the official interpretation of the tariff schedule at the international level. The Explanatory Notes to Chapter 49, HTSUSA, provide in pertinent part that articles "of which the essential nature and use is determined by the fact of its being printed with motifs, characters or pictorial representations" are classified as printed matter.

In HRL 085524, this office expressed the opinion that the instructions and illustrations were more than merely incidental to the film's use as a wrapper. However, its essential nature is not determined by the printing. The Explanatory Notes anticipate and we have held that articles such as seed packets, record sleeves, and other articles "printed, e.g., with the name of the merchant, directions for use, illustrations" are not printed matter. The information conveyed by the printing here is comparable to that on seed packets or other articles; it is clearly described as "directions for use" and "illustrations." The printing here is not more than merely incidental to the primary use of the goods.

Having excluded the goods from coverage under Chapter 49, HTSUSA, we are faced with the other finding of HRL 085524: whether or not the terms of heading 3923 or 3920, HTSUSA apply to these goods. We believe this portion of HRL 085524 to be essentially correct:

[The importer] argues that the printed polypropylene film should be classified under the provision for articles for the conveyance or packing of goods, of plastics, other, in subheading 3923.90.00, HTSUSA. We observe that, in its imported form, the instant merchandise is incapable of "containing," as it consists of rolls of continuous lengths of plastic printed film.

Further, the Explanatory Notes contain a diversity of exemplars, including boxes, bags and sacks, yet significantly do not mention food wrap or plastic wrap such as this. We do not consider the polypropylene film to be ejusdem generis to the terms of heading 3923, HTSUSA. The goods of that heading, and the Explanatory Note exemplars, are all of the type used for shipping of goods in the stream of commerce, generally at the wholesale level, rather than the packaging found on individual items marketed for retail transactions. Lastly, the instant goods are not "articles", but rather a component material for the manufacture of packaging.

The terms of heading 3920, HTSUSA, provide for plates, sheets and film of non-cellular plastics. The Explanatory Notes indicate that goods of this heading may be printed. We are of the opinion that this heading provides for the instant goods. This finding is substantiated by a comparison of heading 3920, HTSUSA, to heading 3923, HTSUSA. Assuming, arguendo, that both headings described the goods, we would consider heading 3920, HTSUSA, to be the more specific description according to GRI 3(a).


HRL 085524 is hereby revoked. The instant goods, printed polypropylene film imported in rolls, is classified by application of GRI 1 in subheading 3920.20.0000, HTSUSA, as other film of non-cellular plastics, of polymers of propylene.

The applicable rate of duty is 4.2 percent ad valorem.

For the purposes of future transactions in this merchandise, HRL 085524 will not be valid precedent. We recognize that pending transactions may be adversely affected by this revocation in that current contracts for importation arriving at a port subsequent to the release of this revocation may be classified under the modified ruling. If such a situation arises, you may, at your discretion and pursuant to section 177.9 of the Code of Federal Regulations, notify this office and apply for relief from the binding affect of the new ruling as may be dictated by the circumstances.


John A. Durant
Commercial Rulings Division

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