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HQ 732874

January 13, 1990

MAR-2-05 CO:R:C:V 732874 NL


District Director
U.S. Customs Service
55 Erieview Plaza
Cleveland, Ohio 44114

RE: Application for Further Review of Protest Number 4196-9- 000039; Marking of Grand and Upright Pianos

Dear Sir:

This is in reference to the above-noted protest and application for further review filed on behalf of Daewoo Corporation, the importer, against the decision of the district director to issue redelivery notices for failure to properly mark upright and grand pianos with their country of origin as required by 19 U.S.C. 1304. Customs subsequently seized the merchandise pursuant to 19 U.S.C. 1595a(c) as the marking of country of origin was falsely certified. Upon payment of a compromised amount the seized pianos were subsequently released.

Although by letter dated January 3, 1990, Daewoo withdrew its protest and application for further review, you indicate in your memorandum of October 16, 1989 that a decision on the issues raised is warranted for uniform application of the marking laws with respect to pianos. Therefore, we are treating your memorandum forwarding the application for further review as a request for internal advice.

In your preliminary review you determined that the upright pianos were properly marked. Accordingly, this decision concerns only the ordered redelivery of the grand pianos for improper country of origin marking.


In May and June, 1989, the importer, through its customs broker, made three entries of upright and grand pianos manufactured by it in Korea and sold under the "Sojin" brand name. For each entry Customs issued a Form 4647, Notice of

Redelivery-Marking, advising that the country of origin marking of the pianos was not conspicuous as required by section 304 of the Tariff Act, as amended, (19 U.S.C. 1304).

The upright pianos were marked with their country of origin by means of stamped or stencilled black lettering approximately one-half inch in height, reading "MADE IN KOREA" which was located on the upper right quadrant of the back of the piano. The lettering was stencilled in indelible ink or paint and coated with a clear varnish or shellac to assure its permanency.

The grand pianos were marked by means of the same method in lettering of the same size, with the lettering located on the underside of the piano on the cross beam. Additionally, on some of the grand pianos, described by the importer as "top of the line", there was additional marking on the inside of the pianos. Inside the case on the plate - the metal frame which holds the strings - was a plastic plaque approximately twelve inches by three inches raised prominently from the surface of the plate. Within the plaque in raised letters approximately one and one- half inches high were the words "BY L.S. DESIGN/WEST GERMANY". According to one photograph submitted as part of the record, a paper sticker was also located under the lid of the piano approximately one foot to the left of the plaque which stated, "MADE IN KOREA" in lettering approximately one-half inch high. The importer maintains that this country of origin marking was located in close proximity to the name "West Germany". The inspector's report stated that the marking "MADE IN KOREA "fails to be of comparable size", and that the marking "WEST GERMANY" "presents an active misleading capability". The supplement to the importer's protest suggests that the sticker is designed to fit within the plaque, next to the words "West Germany".

The importer's protest was received by Customs on September 7, 1989. On September 27 the importer was advised that upon review and re-examination of the pianos Customs had determined that the marking of the upright pianos was acceptable. The importer's protest as to the remaining grand pianos after preliminary review was recommended for denial by the district director on October 16. The district director viewed the marking of the grand pianos on their underside cross beam as not conspicuous as required by 19 U.S.C. 1304, since an ultimate purchaser "would be required to lie on the floor and crawl underneath the piano in order to view the marking." The Deputy Assistant Regional Commissioner (Commercial Operations), by memorandum of November 1, 1989, concurred in this recommendation.

We understand that as part of the settlement of the seizure and as a condition of release, the district director has approved the remarking of the premium grand pianos such that the small "MADE IN KOREA" sticker is placed within the boundaries of the plaque which reads, "WEST GERMANY".


Is marking the piano's country of origin on the cross beam beneath the piano conspicuous within the meaning of 19 U.S.C. 1304?

Does marking the country of origin inside the piano by means of a paper sticker next to the raised lettering of the words "WEST GERMANY" satisfy the requirements of 19 CFR 134.46?


Section 304 of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C. 1304), provides that, unless excepted, every article of foreign origin imported into the U.S. 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 U.S. the English name of the country of origin of the article.

Part 134, Customs Regulations (19 CFR Part 134), implements the country of origin marking requirements and exceptions of 19 U.S.C. 1304. Sections 134.11 and 134.44, relied upon by the district director, elaborate upon the statutory requirements of conspicuousness, permanency, legibility and indelibility. We also note that section 134.41(b) requires that the country of origin marking be such that the ultimate purchaser is able to find the country of origin marking easily and read it without strain.

Section 134.46, Customs Regulations, provides, among other things, that in any case in which the name of any foreign country or locality other than the country of origin appears on the article, the name of the country of origin must appear, legibly and permanently, in close proximity to the foreign name, in at least a comparable size, preceded by "Made in," "Product of," or other words of similar meaning.

As to the marking of the country of origin of the grand piano on the underside of the instrument on its cross beam, the importer is correct that Customs has not issued any decisions determining whether marking the underside of a piano is conspicuous within the meaning of 19 U.S.C. 1304. He argues that Custom's proposed disposition of his protest is inconsistent with prior decisions on large furniture which he claims are analagous articles for country of origin marking purposes. In particular, the importer directs our attention to ruling 707766 (July 29, 1977), in which we followed our prior rulings that large pieces of furniture usually had been required to be marked in large letters on the rear, or on the underside in the case of chairs or tables. See, also, T.D. 45121 (1931)(large
pieces of furniture should be marked on the back or underside).

The importer also points out correctly that under the holding of Charles A. Redden v. United States, T.D. 44964 (Cust. Ct. June 11, 1931), the country of origin of an article need not be marked in the most conspicuous place, "but merely in any conspicuous place which shall not be covered or obscured by subsequent attachments or arrangements." Finally, the importer directs us to a ruling indicating that Customs has recognized that purchasers of consumer electronic products expect to find country of origin marking on the back or underside of the article. See, ruling 707280 (March 16, 1977). From this citation we take it that the importer would have us find that what is a conspicuous location depends upon where, on a particular kind of article, an ultimate purchaser expects to find country of origin marking. The importer's point is well-taken.

In determining whether the marking by printing on the cross beam under the piano is conspicuous, we are guided by a number of the principles identified by the importer. We do not require country of origin marking which would detract from the appearance of the article. We require only that the location of country of origin marking be conspicuous, and not that it be in the most conspicuous location. We take into account where the ultimate purchaser of a grand piano expects to find country of origin marking. As previously recited, we are also guided by the requirement that the marking be easily found and read without strain; that the method of marking is appropriate to the nature of the article; and that the marking will be sufficiently permanent to insure that the marking will remain on the article until it reaches the ultimate purchaser unless deliberately removed.

To the extent a piano is regarded as a piece of furniture, it makes no sense to require that its aesthetic aspects be obscured by country of origin marking. In this regard permitting country of origin marking on the underside or back of tables, chairs, sofas and the like acknowledges that purchasers of such articles do not expect to find country of origin marking on finished furniture surfaces, and would be accustomed to looking for country of origin marking on the back or bottom of the article. The expectations of ultimate purchasers with respect to pianos are different. We note from the submitted sales materials that on several of the importer's models the name of the manufacturer appears to be painted directly onto the finished case below the keyboard on the part known as the keybed. Moreover, by long tradition the name of the piano manufacturer is almost invariably painted so as to be visible when the lid on the keyboard, known as the fallboard, is raised. There is also a long tradition in the piano industry of placing names and other information inside the case, or "belly" of the piano. In our view the rulings on furniture do not provide a basis for
permitting country of origin marking only on the underside of grand pianos, since ultimate purchasers expect to find considerable information written on the finished surfaces and inside the case.

These latter two locations are, in our view, the more traditional locations for model and brand information, and both are conspicuous for country of origin marking purposes. Usually the name of the maker is given under the keyboard lid, or fallboard, while serial and model numbers and patent information are usually molded or die cast immediately inside the case into the plate. In an upright piano it is is difficult for a purchaser to obtain a clear view of this location, even with the top open. In a grand piano, however, this location is often given prominence by spray painting with bronzing powder, and the maker often die sinks or molds an elaborate mark into the metal of the frame. The purchaser is invariably afforded the opportunity to raise the lid of the piano to look closely at the interior of a grand piano prior to purchase, observing the action of the keyboard, the resonance of the strings, the quality of sound produced by the soundboard, and noting the overall craftsmanship displayed in the manufacture of the "guts" of the instrument.

In light of the foregoing, it is our opinion that purchasers of grand pianos expect to find information as to manufacturer, brand name, model, serial number, and country of origin either on the raised keyboard cover (the fallboard) or inside the case on the metal plate. We do not believe that requiring the name of a piano's country of origin to be marked in those locations would in any way, unlike furniture, interfere with its aesthetic appeal. The importance of the plate location, in particular, is confirmed by the importer's own manufacturing practice. On those "premium" instruments which were designed in West Germany, a fact which the importer presumably regards as a significant selling point, the plaque which reads "BY L.S. DESIGN/WEST GERMANY" is located on the plate immediately inside the case. It is apparent that the importer chose this location to assure that this feature was easily found by purchasers in that location where they would be expecting to find information of that sort. As previously noted, the importer also sells some models in which the name of the manufacturer is located beneath the keyboard on the key bed. We find that these locations are conspicuous for purposes of country of origin marking.

We agree with the district director that marking the name of the country of origin on the underside of a grand piano is not conspicuous. As he found, a purchaser would be required to crawl beneath the piano in order to find the marking, making the mark difficult to locate and read without strain. Moreover, as found above, there are two or perhaps three locations on a grand piano to which a prospective purchaser would turn for manufacturing and
country of origin information before looking beneath the piano. To be clear on this point, our finding is not merely that marking the name of the country of origin beneath the piano is less conspicuous than the other locations noted, but that in relation to them and to purchasers' expectations it is not conspicuous at all. See, Redden, supra.

The second country of origin marking issue in your request is whether with respect to the "top of the line" grand pianos the marking "MADE IN KOREA" was sufficiently proximate to the name "WEST GERMANY" and in comparably-sized lettering to satisfy the requirements of 19 CFR 134.46. The purpose of that section is to prevent the ultimate purchaser from being misled or possibly deceived as to the country of origin of an article when words or names on it or its container refer to a country which is not the actual country of origin. It appears from the record that at the time of importation these grand pianos were marked by means of a small sticker located either several feet to the left of the plaque bearing the words "WEST GERMANY" or within the bounds of the plaque. The lettering of "MADE IN KOREA" was one-third or less of the size of the lettering of "WEST GERMANY". This country of origin marking was plainly not in lettering of comparable size as required by 19 CFR 134.46. With regard to the location we find that the stickers appearing within the bounds of the plaque satisfy the close proximity requirement of 19 CFR 134.46, whereas the stickers appearing several feet from the plaque do not.

The importer urges that the lettering of "MADE IN KOREA" is as large as can be accommodated within the bounds of the plaque. For these entries the district director has determined that the requirements of 19 CFR 134.46 may be satisfied by the application of the small sticker within the boundaries of the plaque, and we shall not disturb that decision. However, in order to comply in the future with 19 CFR 134.46 the importer should be required to provide the name of the country of origin preceded by "Made in" or "Product of" in lettering of approximately the same size as the lettering of "WEST GERMANY", either within the boundaries of the plaque or immediately adjacent to it in close proximity.


1) Marking a grand piano's country of origin on the cross beam beneath the piano is not conspicuous within the meaning of 19 U.S.C. 1304.

2) To satisfy the requirements of 19 CFR 134.46, future shipments of the premium model grand pianos designed in West Germany should be marked with their Korean country of origin in close proximity and in lettering of comparable size to the name "West Germany" appearing on the plastic plaque on the metal frame inside the pianos.

A copy of this decision should be furnished to counsel for Daewoo.


Marvin M. Amernick
Chief, Value, Special Programs

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