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HQ 952437

October 23, 1992

CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 952437 SK


TARIFF NO's.: 6201.93.3510; 6202.93.4500; 6210.40.1020; 6210.50.1020

Mark K. Neville, Jr.
51 Marion Road
Westport, CT 06880

RE: HRL 086504 (12/27/90) affirmed; classification of floater jackets; filler of expanded PVC; "Gore-Tex"; essential character imparted by the outer shell which forms the garment; T.D. 91-78; foam filler is useful, but not essential for the use of these garments as coats; NYRl's 847328, 847319, 847327.

Dear Mr. Neville:

This is in reply to your letter of June 15, 1992, on behalf of Mustang Industries, requesting reconsideration of Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 086504, dated December 27, 1990. Upon further review, that ruling is deemed to be correct in its affirmation of several New York Ruling Letters (NYRL's) which classified "floater" coats under various headings in Chapter 62 of the tariff schedule.


The merchandise at issue encompasses twelve styles of "floater" coats. All the garments are constructed of a textile outer shell and lining and a center layer of PVC foam. This is not a lamination. The foam layer serves to provide buoyancy in case the wearer should fall into water. The styles at issue are referenced: MC1600; MC1700; MC1402; MC1520; MC1530; MC1550; MC1510; MC1101; MC1400; MC1400T; MC1100; MC1102.

HRL 086504 affirmed New York Ruling Letters (NYRL's) 847328, 847319 and 847327 which had classified these articles under various headings in Chapter 62 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule
of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA). HRL 086504 held that the NYRL's were correct in their determination that the essential character of these garments was imparted by the outer shell.


Whether the center of expanded PVC imparts the essential character to the subject merchandise?


Classification of merchandise under the HTSUSA is in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's). GRI 1 provides that classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes. Where goods cannot be classified solely on the basis of GRI 1, and if the heading and the legal notes do not otherwise require, the remaining GRI's may be applied in order of their appearance.

In Treasury Decision (T.D.) 91-78, Customs issued a final interpretive rule with regard to the classification of garments composed in part of linings or interlinings of specialized fabrics, such as the "floater" coats at issue. The ruling held that "a specialized fabric garment should be classified on the basis of the outer shell of the garment instead of the fabric which imparts a significant characteristic." This rule, effective as of December 11, 1991, was issued after Customs had reviewed comments submitted in response to this interpretive rule's proposal. See Treasury Decision (T.D.) 91-78, Customs Bulletin, vol. 25, 1991, at p. 195.

It is important to recognize that this rule is not absolute; not all garments with linings will automatically be classified on the basis of their outer shell by mandate of T.D. 91-78. Reference to the "Supplementary Information" section of T.D. 91- 78 further elaborates on this and states, "Customs also believes that while . . . linings, interlinings or nonwoven insulating layers do impart desirable and, sometimes, necessary features to garments, it is usually the outer shell which imparts the essential character to the garment because the outer shell normally creates the garment." [emphasis added] See T.D. 91-78 at p. 196. This statement serves to refute your argument that Customs has created a "hard-and-fast rule that the outer shell always creates essential character." The carefully worded exception in the T.D. recognizes that there may be circumstances where a garment's lining is so important, and so indispensible to the use of the garment, that it will indeed impart the essential character to the garment and classification will be based on the lining as opposed to the outer shell.

In the instant case, Customs is asked to make the determination as to whether the garments' centers of PVC foam, or the outer shells, impart the "essential character" to these coats. Explanatory Note VIII to GRI 3 states:

"The factor which determines essential character will vary as between different types of goods. It may, for example, be determined by the nature of the material or component, its bulk, quantity, weight or value, or by the role of a constituent material in relation to the use of the goods."

The information on relative values and weights, provided in the submissions made to the file for HRL 086504, did not convince us that the essential character of these coats was imparted by the PVC. The nature of the PVC is such that it will enable the wearer to float and while this is undeniably an important and specialized function, it does not impart essential character. The vast majority of the time, these garments will be used as cold-weather or foul-weather coats. They possess features found on many coats and they provide sound insulation against wind and moisture. In other words, while these "floater" coats are physically distinguishable from other outerwear garments in that foam is not ordinarily used as a lining material, and it has flotation properties making it suitable for a particular activity, we see no fundamental difference between the foam and other specialized materials used as linings, all of which have been held not to impart the essential character. We note in particular that coats with down linings are classifiable on the basis of their outer shells and down linings offer such great warmth that in very cold weather they, as with the PVC foam linings, may possess life-saving capabilities.

You state in your submission that Customs uses faulty logic in T.D. 91-78 and that the "'formation of the garment' is not necessarily co-extensive with imparting the essential character of the garment." We agree that the component which forms the garment is not necessarily that which imparts essential character but, absent unusual circumstances, this is usually the case. As stressed above, to impart essential character a garment's lining or center must be more than useful, it must possess such exceptional qualities that it goes to the core of the garment's usefulness. In the instant case, the PVC filler is significant, but its role is not essential to the use of this garment as a coat. To say that the PVC filler imparts the essential character to these garments would be an overstatement of the importance of its role as a constituent material in relation to the use of the goods.

Lastly, you contend that Customs was wrong to state in T.D. 92-32 that "[t]he issues involved in T.D. 91-78 concern the rules
relating to the classification of textile articles which are vastly different that (SIC) those involved in the tariff classification of hiking boots with GORE-TEX liners." You state that the principles involved in applying a GRI 3(b) analysis to the classification of textiles and apparel are the same when applied to the classification of footwear. We note, however, as stated in GRI 3(b), "the factors which determine essential character will vary as between different types of goods." Therefore, the issues raised in the classification of textiles and apparel may very well differ from those involved in classifying footwear and no apt analogy of Customs disparate treatment of the two can be drawn. The role of GORE-TEX in hiking boots may indeed impart essential character, whereas with regard to the coats at issue, the PVC lining does not.

Application of GRI 3(b) results in a finding that the outer shells of the subject merchandise impart the essential character to the subject merchandise in that they form the coats. The PVC filler does not impart essential character because, while undeniably important, the foam filler is not vital to these garments' predominant use as coats and not as flotation devices. Classification is proper under Chapter 62, HTSUSA.


The instant merchandise remains classified under the subheadings enumerated in the aforementioned New York Ruling Letters and HRL 086504 is affirmed.


John Durant, Director

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