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 0955016 - HQ 0955095 > HQ 0955050

Previous Ruling Next Ruling

HQ 955050

February 28, 1994

CLA-2 CO:R:C:F 955050 LPF


TARIFF NO.: 4016.99.60

Mr. William J. LeClair
Administrative and Regulatory Advisor
Trans-Border Customs Services, Inc.
One Trans-Border Drive
P.O. Box 800
Champlain, NY 12919

RE: Condom novelty lollipop; Heading 4016, HTSUSA; Other articles of vulcanized rubber; Not 9505 practical joke article; Not 4014 hygienic or pharmaceutical article; HRLs 952472, 950564, 953187, 953188, 089529

Dear Mr. LeClair:

This is in response to your letter of September 20, 1993 on behalf of H.M. Smallwares, Ltd. Your inquiry requests the proper classification, under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA), of a condom novelty. The marking question included in your request has been forwarded to the Value and Marking Branch for their separate consideration and response. You submitted samples with your request for a binding ruling.


The article at issue is a condom novelty resembling a lollipop. The condoms are manufactured in Korea and imported into Canada where a paper or plastic stick is glued on to the condom to give the appearance of a lollipop. One of a variety of humorous labels will be attached. Of the samples submitted, one was labeled "Over the Hill" and the other "Do Me Now" with a black or blue bow at the juncture of the stick and condom. A disclaimer label is attached which states: "To be sold as a joke item only. Not to be sold as a condom."


Whether the condom novelty is classified within heading 9505 as a practical joke article, heading 4014 as a hygienic or pharmaceutical article of vulcanized rubber, or heading 4016 as an other article of vulcanized rubber.


The General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs) taken in their appropriate order provide a framework for classification of merchandise under the HTSUS. Most imported goods are classified by application of GRI 1, that is, according to the terms of the headings of the tariff schedule and any relative section or chapter notes. In the event that the goods cannot be classified solely on the basis of GRI 1, and if the headings and legal notes do not otherwise require, the remaining GRIs may then be applied. The Explanatory Notes (ENs) to the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, which represent the official interpretation of the tariff at the international level, facilitate classification under the HTSUS by offering guidance in understanding the scope of the headings and GRIs.

Heading 9505, HTSUSA, provides, inter alia for practical joke articles. The EN to 9505 indicates that the heading includes:

(B) Conjuring tricks and novelty jokes, e.g., packs of cards, tables, screens and containers, specially designed for the performance of conjuring tricks; novelty jokes such as sneezing powder, surprise sweets, water-jet button-holes and "Japanese flowers."

In determining whether merchandise qualifies as a practical joke article, Customs has utilized the standard articulated in Parksmith Corporation v. United States, 67 Cust. Ct. 405, 408 C.D. 4304 (1970). In that decision, the court reviewed several dictionary and court case definitions of the term "practical joke," determining that a practical joke article is one which causes humor by "somehow placing an individual at a disadvantage through a trick or prank."

Accordingly, in Headquarters Ruling Letters (HRL's) 952472, issued February 8, 1993 and 950564, issued March 13, 1992, a Strobie Ghost consisting of a battery operated ghost figure emitting screams and flashing lights and Mr. Piddle Bib, a penal bib with brightly colored tie strings to be worn around one's hips, both were classified as other than practical joke articles. On the contrary, in HRL's 953187, issued August 5, 1993, 953188, issued May 18, 1993, and 089529, issued October 1, 1991, rubber squirt figures which when squeezed emitted water from the figure's mouth and Weepy the Wee Wee consisting of a figure which, when his pants were pulled down, would squirt water out from a hole in the front pelvic area, were classified as practical joke articles. In the latter decisions, as opposed to the former decisions, Customs maintained that the merchandise would surprise and/or trick an individual, placing them at a humorous disadvantage.

It is our opinion that the subject merchandise, although humorous, does not surprise and/or trick an individual nor place one at a humorous disadvantage. Pursuant to the applicable EN and the definition articulated in the Parksmith case, the condom novelty does not qualify as a practical joke article and must be classified elsewhere.

Heading 4014, HTSUSA, provides for hygienic or pharmaceutical articles, of vulcanized rubber. The EN to 4014 indicate that the heading includes, inter alia, sheath contraceptives. However, after consulting with vendors of this type of merchandise, it is our position that because the articles include a stick glued to the condom, as well as a humorous label and ribbon, that it is unlikely the article will be sold and used as a hygienic or pharmaceutical article, e.g., as a contraceptive, but instead as a unique novelty item. The article is not classifiable within heading 4014.

Because no HTSUS heading provides for the merchandise, as a whole, it is not classifiable at the GRI 1 level. Thus, we turn to GRI 3(a) to classify the article in the HTSUS heading providing for one of its components: either the condom (i.e., vulcanized rubber), the stick, or the bow. Pursuant to GRI 3(a), because each of the possible headings providing for these components refers to only part of the article, the headings are regarded as equally specific and we classify the article by GRI 3(b).

GRI 3(b) provides that articles made up of different components, that is, composite goods, shall be classified as if they consisted of the component which gives them their essential character. "Essential character" is the attribute which strongly marks or serves to distinguish what an article is. EN VIII to GRI 3(b) explains that bulk, quantity, weight, value or the role of a constituent material in relation to the use of the article are indicia of essential character.

Because the condom, or vulcanized rubber, portion of the article distinguishes the article as a novelty, while the other components, i.e., the stick and bow, merely are included as part of the novel presentation of the condom, the condom component imparts the article's essential character. The entire article is classified in the heading providing for the condom, or vulcanized rubber.

As explained above, because neither the article, in its entirety, nor the vulcanized rubber component itself may be classified within heading 4014 providing for hygienic or pharmaceutical articles, the vulcanized rubber article is appropriately classified within heading 4016 as other articles of vulcanized rubber. However, at the eight digit subheading level, subheading 4016.99.35 provides for other articles of vulcanized
rubber other than hard rubber, of natural rubber, while subheading 4016.99.60 provides for other articles of vulcanized rubber other than hard rubber, other (than natural rubber).

Legal Note 4 to Chapter 40 states that for tariff purposes, the expression "synthetic rubber" applies to, "unsaturated synthetic substances which can be irreversibly transformed by vulcanization with sulfur into nonthremoplastic substances which, at a temperature between 18 and 29 degrees Celsius, will not break on being extended to three times their original length and will return, after being extended to twice their original length, within a period of 5 minutes, to a length not greater than 1-1/2 times their original length." On January 27, 1994, you stated telephonically that the vulcanized rubber is not natural rubber, but synthetic rubber. Assuming that the vulcanized rubber is in fact synthetic rubber, as you state, and it meets the definition of synthetic rubber as referred to in Legal Note 4, the appropriate subheading is 4016.99.60.


The condom novelty is classified in subheading 4016.99.60 as, "Other articles of vulcanized rubber other than hard rubber: Other: Other: Other: Other: Other." The general column one rate of duty is 5.3 percent ad valorem.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

Previous Ruling Next Ruling

See also: