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HQ 733142

June 19, 1990

MAR-2-05 CO:R:V:C 733142 RSD


Mr. Sidney Kuflik, Esq.
Lamb & Lerch
233 Broadway
New York, New York 10279

RE: country of origin marking of portfolios used to hold documents for motor vehicles

Dear Mr. Kuflik:

This is in reply to your letter dated February 15, 1990, requesting a ruling on the country of origin marking requirements for portfolios used to hold motor vehicle documents.


Your client, Mazda Motors of America, Inc. (Mazda), intends to import vinyl portfolios. Mazda will put a portfolio in the glove compartment of each vehicle it sells in the U.S. for the purpose of holding miscellaneous documents and papers connected with the vehicle. The portfolios are standard equipment and will not be sold or even be available as replacement parts. Currently, Mazda is importing the portfolios manufactured in Colombia which are marked on the inside flap "Made in Columbia." The printed insert cards contained in the sample portfolio indicates that the insert cards are "Printed in Colombia." The plastic covering, in which the portfolios are shipped, state that the portfolios are "Made in Colombia." Madza requests an exception from marking the country of origin on the portfolio. An unmarked sample portfolio was submitted.


Does the portfolio used to hold vehicle documents have to be marked with its country of origin?


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. Congressional intent in enacting 19 U.S.C. 1304 was that the ultimate purchaser should be able to know by an inspection of the marking on the imported goods the country of which the goods is the product. "The evident purpose is to mark the goods so that at the time of purchase the ultimate purchaser may, by knowing where the goods were produced, be able to buy or refuse to buy them, if such marking should influence his will." United States v. Friedlaender & Co., 27 C.C.P.A. 297 at 302 (1940).

Part 134, Customs Regulations (19 CFR Part 134), implements the country of origin marking requirements and exceptions of 19 U.S.C. 1304. As provided in section 134.41(b), Customs Regulations (19 CFR 134.41(b)), the country of origin marking is considered conspicuous if the ultimate purchaser in the U.S. is able to find the marking easily and read it without strain. That section further provides that the degree of permanence should be at least sufficient to insure that in any reasonably foreseeable circumstance the marking shall remain on the article until it reaches the ultimate purchaser unless it is deliberately removed.

Mazda seeks an exception from having to mark the portfolios under section 304(a)(3)(H), Tariff Act of 1930 as amended (19 U.S.C. 1304 (a)(3)(H)), as implemented by section 134.32(h), Customs Regulations (19 CFR 134.32(h)), which allows an exception from marking if the ultimate purchaser must necessarily know the country of origin of the article by reason of the circumstances of their importation or by reason of the character of the articles even though they are not marked to indicate their origin. In order to qualify for this exception Mazda would have to be considered the ultimate purchaser. It is Mazda's contention that because the portfolios are incorporated into the vehicle and are not sold at retail, it should be considered the ultimate purchaser.

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. The buyer of the vehicle that Mazda sells would be the last person in the U.S. to receive the portfolio in the form in which it was imported. Mazda does nothing to the article other than putting it into the glove compartment of the vehicle. Because the portfolios are not incorporated into the vehicle they clearly do not lose their separate identity when Mazda puts them into the vehicle. The vehicle owner can also remove the portfolio from the vehicle and use it outside of the vehicle. The portfolio is basically a gift distributed to buyers of vehicles made by Mazda. The recipient of a gift with a purchase has been determined to be the ultimate purchaser of the article for country of origin marking purposes. See Pabrini, Inc. v. United States, 630 F.Supp 360 (C.I.T.,1986). See also 19 CFR 134.1(d)(4) (if the imported article is distributed as a gift the recipient is the ultimate purchaser). Accordingly, we reject Mazda's contention that it is the ultimate purchaser, and find that the vehicle buyer is the ultimate purchaser. Therefore, an exception from marking the portfolio with its country of origin may not be obtained under 19 CFR 134.32(h).

Under 19 U.S.C 1304 (a)(3)(D) and 19 CFR 134.32(d), if marking the container of an article will reasonably indicate the origin of the article, the article itself may be excepted from marking. Customs has ruled that the exception applies only in foreseeable circumstances where the imported article will reach the ultimate purchaser in the original unopened marked container. See HQ 729075, January 23, 1986. In this case, the portfolios are imported in a sealed plastic bag. The plastic bag is marked with the country of origin by means of a paper sticker which is securely affixed to the bag. In accordance with 19 CFR 134.44(b), an article may be marked with its country of origin by means of a paper sticker if the sticker is affixed in a conspicuous place and so securely that unless deliberately removed it will remain on the article while it is in storage or on display and until it is delivered to the ultimate purchaser. The paper sticker marking on the plastic bag is legible, conspicuous and satisfies the other requirements of 19 CFR 134.44(b) because it appears to be sufficiently securely affixed that it will remain on the article unless deliberately removed.

However, since the plastic bag must be opened to place the appropriate documents in the portfolio, it is likely that these bags will not remain on the portfolios. The difficulty of ensuring that the bags will remain on the portfolios until they reach the vehicle buyer is further increased by the fact that Mazda may not be able to control the actions of its dealerships throughout the United States. Accordingly, we find that the exception from marking provided in 19 U.S.C. 1304(a)(3)(D) and 19 CFR 134.32(d) does not apply. However, if the paper stickers are placed directly on the portfolios rather than the plastic bags there would be no problem in ensuring that the country of origin marking remains on the portfolios.


The ultimate purchaser of the portfolios is the vehicle buyer. There is no exception to the country of origin marking requirements based on 19 CFR 132.32(h). Because of the difficulty of ensuring that the plastic bags marked with the country of origin by means of a paper sticker which states "Made in Colombia" will remain on the article until they reach the vehicle buyer, the portfolios are not excepted from marking under 19 CFR 134.32(d). Putting the country of origin sticker directly on the portfolio would satisfy the country of origin marking requirements of 19 U.S.C. 1304.


Marvin M. Amernick

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