United States International Trade Commision Rulings And Harmonized Tariff Schedule
faqs.org  Rulings By Number  Rulings By Category  Tariff Numbers
faqs.org > Rulings and Tariffs Home > Rulings By Number > 1994 HQ Rulings > HQ 0954856 - HQ 0954937 > HQ 0954937

Previous Ruling Next Ruling

HQ 954937

December 7, 1993

CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 954937 ch


TARIFF NO.: 4414.00.0000; 4420.90.6500

Kevin T. Lee
4340 McLaughlin Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90066

RE: Revocation of NYRL 887632; classification wood photo frames and wood boxes decorated with shell imported into the United States from the Philippines.

Dear Mr. Lee:

New York Ruling Letter (NYRL) 887632, dated June 29, 1993, concerned the classification of certain photograph frames and decorative boxes under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA). We have had occasion to review this ruling and find that the classification of these items under subheading 9601.90.2000, HTSUSA, is in error.


Five samples have been submitted to this office for inspection:

1. Item A: A 4" x 6" photograph frame with a wood foundation which has been decoratively covered on the surface with a thin layer of young pen shell.

2. Item B: A small decorative box with a wood foundation, covered with young pen shell.

3. Item C: A 3" x 5" wood photograph frame with easel made of brown lip shell with brass and black pen shell inlay.

4. Item D: A small decorative wood box covered on the surface with brown lip shell.

5. Item F: A small decorative wood box covered on the surface with white chamber nautilus shell.

In NYRL 887632, we classified these items under subheading 9601.90.2000, HTSUSA, which provides, inter alia, for worked shell and articles thereof.


Whether the instant photograph frames and decorative boxes are classifiable as articles of shell, pursuant to subheading 9601.90.2000, HTSUSA; or as articles of wood, pursuant to Chapter 44, HTSUSA?


Classification of goods under the HTSUSA is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI). GRI 1 provides that classification is determined first in accordance with the terms of the headings of the tariff and any relative section or chapter notes. Where goods cannot be classified on the basis of GRI 1, the remaining GRI will be applied in order.

GRI 1 states that "for legal purposes, classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes." Each of the submitted samples are surface covered with decorative shell. Hence, they are described by subheading 9601.90.2000, HTSUSA, as articles of shell and are prima facie classifiable therein.

However, these items also feature sturdy foundations or frames of wood which merit consideration. Chapter 44, HTSUSA, which provides for wood and articles of wood, contain provisions which describe the instant merchandise. Specifically, the photograph frames are prima facie classifiable under heading 4414, HTSUSA, which provides for wooden frames for photographs; the boxes are prima facie classifiable under subheading 4420.90, HTSUSA, which provides, inter alia, for jewelry boxes, cigar and cigarette boxes, tool or utensil cases and similar boxes of wood.

GRI 2(b) states that:

Any reference in a heading to a material or substance shall be taken to include a reference to mixtures or combinations of that material or substance with other materials or substances. Any reference to goods of a given material or substance shall be taken to include a reference to goods consisting wholly or partly of such material or substance. The classification of goods consisting of more than one material or substance shall be according to the principles of rule 3.

Under the terms of GRI 2(b), the wood and shell headings which describe each item are both applicable despite the fact that they are only partially composed of these materials. The principles set forth in GRI 3 are to be utilized to render a final classification determination.

GRI 3(a) reads as follows:

When, by application of rule 2(b) or for any other reason, goods are, prima facie, classifiable under two or more headings, classification shall be effected as follows:

(a) The heading which provides the most specific description shall be preferred to headings providing a more general description. However, when two or more headings each refer to part only of the materials or substances contained in mixed or composite goods or to part only of the items in a set put up for retail sale, those headings are to be regarded as equally specific in relation to those goods, even if one of them gives a more complete or precise description of the goods. (Emphasis added).

Generally, GRI 3(a) provides that the heading which most specifically describes the merchandise shall prevail over other applicable provisions. However, classification cannot be resolved on the basis of specificity when competing headings each refer to only part of the finished article. Here, the shell provision describes the decorative portions of the photograph frames and boxes. On the other hand, the applicable wood headings describe only the frame or structural component of these goods. Therefore, we cannot resort to GRI 3(a) in this instance.

GRI 3(b) states that:

Mixtures, composite goods consisting of different materials or made up of different components, and goods put up in sets for retail sale, which cannot be classified by reference to 3(a), shall be classified as if they consisted of the material or component which gives them their essential character, insofar as this criterion is applicable. (Emphasis added).

Thus, GRI 3(b) provides that goods consisting of two or materials shall be classified as if they were composed entirely of the material which lends them their "essential character."

The Explanatory Notes (EN) to GRI 3(b), at page 4, state in part:

The factor which determines essential character will vary as between different kinds 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.

In NYRL 887632, we concluded that the shell materials imparted the essential character to the subject merchandise. However, we have reviewed this determination and find that it is not consistent with our current administrative rulings.

On numerous occasions we have determined that wood imparts the essential character to decorated photograph frames and boxes possessing sturdy wood frames or foundations. See NYRL 851014, dated April 13, 1990 (wood picture frame decorated with wood beads); NYRL 854727, dated August 8, 1990 (textile covered plywood box); NYRL 848673, dated February 1, 1990 (leather covered wooden boxes); District Ruling 843346 (paper covered card-holder box constructed of wood); NYRL 834690, dated January 25, 1989 (plywood picture frames decorated with papers or shell). Photograph frames and boxes are primarily functional articles. In these decisions, the wood provided the form and structure which allowed the articles to be used. Where the wood plays such an important role in relation to the goods, we have concluded that their classification should not vary on the basis of how they have been decorated. (But Cf. Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 085101, dated September 25, 1989; HRL 085102, dated September 25, 1989; chipwood and plywood boxes covered and lined with textile materials are classified as articles of textile when their primary function is decorative).

In this instance, the wood imparts the structural integrity to the articles. Although the shell materials add visual appeal and value to the frames and boxes, we consider the decorative aspects of the instant merchandise to be of secondary importance. Accordingly, as wood imparts the essential character to these items they are classifiable as articles of wood.


Items A and C are classifiable under subheading 4414.00.0000, HTSUSA, which provides for wooden frames for paintings, photographs, mirrors or similar objects. The applicable rate of duty for GSP eligible countries is Free.

Items B, D and F are classifiable under subheading 4420.90.6500, HTSUSA, which provides for wood marquetry and inlaid wood; caskets and cases for jewelry or cutlery and similar articles, of wood; statuettes and other ornaments, of wood; wooden articles of furniture not falling within chapter 94: other: jewelry boxes, silverware chests, cigar and cigarette boxes, microscope cases, tool or utensil cases and similar boxes, cases and chests, all the foregoing of wood: other: lined with textile fabrics. The applicable rate of duty is 2.2 cents/kilogram + 2.9 percent ad valorem. Items classified under this provision are not GSP eligible.

This notice to you should be considered a revocation of NYRL 887632 under 19 CFR 177.9(d)(1). We recognize that pending transactions may be adversely affected by this modification, in that current contracts for importations arriving at a port subsequent to this decision will be classified pursuant to it. If such a situation arises, your client may, at its discretion, notify this office and apply for relief from the binding effects of this decision as may be warranted by the circumstances. However, please be advised that in some instances involving import restraints, such relief may require separate approvals from other government agencies.


John Durant, Director

Previous Ruling Next Ruling

See also: