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HQ 731837

August 17, 1989

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


Ms. Kathy Young
Panalpina, Inc.
P.O. Box 502
Greer, South Carolina 29651

RE: Country of origin marking requirements applicable to imported cassette cases and cassette shells

Dear Ms. Young:

This is in reply to your letters of October 5, 1988, and July 28, 1989, concerning the application of country of origin marking requirements to imported cassette cases and shells. We regret the delay in responding.


Cassette shells are imported in bulk in, according to your submission, properly marked outer containers. The shells are sold to processors in the U.S. that insert either blank recording tape or prerecorded tape, both of U.S. origin, into the shells.

Although your letter did not refer to them separately, we note that the samples submitted included two empty cassette cases. Both empty cases consist of a clear plastic front designed to snap shut against a black plastic back. The cases are made to hold and protect individual cassettes. Marking requirements for cases reaching ultimate purchasers independent of cassettes, as well as for cases delivered containing a cassette, are discussed below.

Additional samples consist of 11 cassette shells. All shells are complete, ready for the insertion of tape. Six of the shells have no label affixed and have no origin worked into the plastic. The five remaining shells all have labels affixed imprinted in pertinent part with the word "Switzerland", once in all uppercase letters directly beneath a company name, "ICM", at the top of the label, and once at the bottom of the label as part of ICM, Ltd.'s Swiss address.


Are cassette cases, whether delivered to ultimate purchasers empty, or containing a cassette, subject to the country of origin marking requirements of 19 U.S.C. 1304?

Are cassette shells imported in a condition ready for the insertion of tape substantially transformed by such insertion, so as to make the party adding the tape the ultimate purchaser of the shells for country of origin marking purposes?


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 an ultimate purchaser in the U.S. the English name of the country of origin of the article. 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."

Section 134.35, Customs Regulations (19 CFR 134.35), implementing the principle of U.S. v. Gibson-Thomsen Co., Inc., 27 C.C.P.A. 267 (C.A.D. 98), 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 134.36(b), Customs Regulations (19 CFR 134.36(b)), stipulates that an exception from marking shall not apply to any article or retail container bearing any words, letters, names, or symbols which imply that an article was made or produced in a country other than the country of origin.


In ruling 731686 (April 12, 1989), Customs held that recipients of sunglass cases, whether receipt was by separate purchase or by virtue of purchasing sunglasses and receiving a complementary case, are the ultimate purchasers of the cases and therefore entitled to country of origin information. Sunglass cases were recognized as articles separate and distinct from the sunglasses they are designed to hold. See also 731758 (April 13, 1989), also on sunglass cases, and 707788 (May 4, 1977), requiring conspicuous marking on a pouch designed as a case for a computer.

Record jackets were determined to be subject to individual country of origin marking requirements in ruling 729224 (January 14, 1987). The decision was based on the fact that a record jacket is not merely a disposable container used to hold a record, but rather retains its separate identity and function even after its combination with a record. Accordingly, the ultimate purchaser of the record jacket is the person who purchases the packaged album. See also 702026; July 6, 1973.

Imported cassette cases which reach ultimate purchasers independent of any cassette, e.g., as a replacement case, are clearly subject to country of origin marking requirements. Cases which reach ultimate purchasers as the container of a cassette are also subject to marking. Like the sunglass cases and record jackets, cassette cases are separate articles which are not transformed by the insertion of a cassette. The cases retain their separate identity and function.


In Grafton Spools, Ltd. v. United States, 45 Cust. Ct. 16, C.D. 2190 1960), the court held that empty ribbon spools for business machines were excepted from individual marking because the spools were substantially transformed into new articles of commerce when wrapped with inked ribbons by a process requiring technical skill and competence. Accordingly, ribbon manufacturers which imported the empty spools were held to be the ultimate purchasers of the spools.

In ruling letter 709123 (June 14, 1978), Customs ruled that audio cassettes shells were not required to be individually marked with their country of origin because the addition of magnetic tape constituted substantial transformation within the principle of the Gibson-Thomsen case and under 134.35, Customs Regulations. See also ruling 709801, May 2, 1979.

The cassette shells imported in a condition ready for the insertion of tape need not be individually marked with their country of origin. The processorB that insert the tape, either blank or prerecorded, are the ultimate purchasers of the shells. However, in the case of shells imported with labels affixed bearing references to the origin of the shells, that label must be modified to indicate that the origin shown is of the shell only. Otherwise ultimate purchasers of the tape-filled cassette would be misled as to the origin of the tape.


Cassette cases which are imported empty and reach ultimate purchasers without having had a cassette added, e.g., as replacement cases for original cases that break or wear out, require separate country of origin marking.

Cassette cases which reach ultimate purchasers with cassettes inside also require separate country of origin marking. The cases are finished articles with separate identities when imported and undergo no transformation by the insertion of a cassette. The case serves an important function in protecting the cassette and ultimate purchasers are entitled to separate origin information concerning this article. Further, cases are not the kind of container thrown away as soon as the article is received, such as cellophane wrap or insubstantial paper bags. Marking such as, "Case ________ ", should be used.

U.S. processors that purchase imported empty cassette shells and load blank or prerecorded tape therein are the ultimate purchasers of the shells. Accordingly, the shells are excepted from individual marking, but the outermost container of the shells reaching the processor must display the country of origin of the shells. However, those empty shells imported bearing a label with the word "Switzerland" imprinted thereon must be marked to indicate the Swiss origin refers to the shell only. Otherwise, purchasers of the cassette after it has been loaded with tape would be misled into believing the tape was of Swiss origin as well.

Your samples are being returned under separate cover.


Marvin M. Amernick
Chief, Value, Special Programs

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