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HQ 956409

December 22, 1994

CLA-2 CO:R:C:T 956409 GG


TARIFF NO.: 9404.90.8040

Peter J. Allen, Esq.
Neville, Peterson & Williams
80 Broad Street
Suite 3400
New York, New York 10004

RE: Classification of Featherbeds

Dear Mr. Allen:

This is in response to your May 9, 1994, request for a reconsideration of New York Ruling Letter (NY) 895597, dated March 31, 1994. The additional information contained in your supplemental submission dated November 10, 1994, has been incorporated into this file. The issue involves the classification of featherbeds. Your client is Natural Feather and Textiles, Inc. The sample is being returned to you under separate cover.


The merchandise is a "Naturelle" Baffle Box Featherbed. The featherbed features a 100 percent woven cotton inner shell constructed with interior baffles and stuffed with a blend of feathers. The outer shell is also of 100 percent woven cotton and has box-edge styling and piping measuring less than 6.35 mm around the edges. The featherbed is available in several sizes corresponding to standard bed size measurements. The submitted sample is approximately two inches deep.

The cost of the feather fill and the cost of the cotton shell are roughly comparable. The percentage of total material cost attributable to the feather fill increases slightly with the size of the featherbed.

The featherbed was classified in NY 895597 as an other article of bedding of cotton under subheading 9404.90.8040 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUSA). The importer claims that the correct classification is as a mattress of cotton under subheading 9404.29.1000, HTSUSA.


How is the featherbed properly classified?


Articles are classified under the HTSUSA in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI's). GRI 1 provides that classification shall be according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes. Merchandise that cannot be classified in accordance with GRI 1 is to be classified in accordance with the remaining GRI's, taken in order.

There is agreement that featherbeds fall within the scope of heading 9404, HTSUSA. This heading provides for

Mattress supports; articles of bedding and similar furnishing (for example, mattresses, quilts, eiderdowns, cushions, pouffes and pillows) fitted with springs or stuffed or internally fitted with any material or of cellular rubber or plastics, whether or not covered.

Once a heading is determined to be applicable, classification must then be made at the appropriate subheading level.

GRI 6 provides that, for legal purposes, classification in the subheadings of a heading is determined in accordance with the terms of the subheadings and any related subheading notes and in accordance with the preceding rules (GRI's). Only subheadings at the same level are comparable. Thus, GRI 6 applies GRI's 1 through 5 in classifying goods at the subheading level. In addition, in application of GRI 6, classification must be effected at the six-digit level before proceeding to the eight- digit level.

"Featherbeds" are not specifically provided for either at the heading or subheading level. However, the importer contends that they fall under the common meaning of the term "mattress". Mattresses of materials other than cellular rubber or plastics, whether or not covered, are described eo nomine in subheading 9404.29, HTSUSA. The National Import Specialist disagrees with the categorization of the featherbed as a mattress, arguing instead that it is marketed and used as an adjunct to a mattress, and thus, is an other article of bedding under subheading 9404.90, HTSUSA.

In support of its position that a featherbed is a mattress, the importer cites to a dictionary definition of the term. Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, (1983), defines mattresses as "a fabric case filled with resilient material (as cotton, hair, feathers, foam rubber, or an arrangement of coiled springs) used either alone as a bed or on a bedstead". While we agree that the featherbed meets part of this definition in that it is a fabric case filled with feathers, in our opinion the featherbed lacks the bulk and degree of firmness necessary for it to be used either alone as a bed or on a bedstead. We note that small hard objects, such as a pen, that are placed underneath the featherbed are easily detected when moderate pressure is applied. Hence it is inconceivable that the featherbed could be placed by itself on a box spring or on a bed with wooden slats. And, despite assertions to the contrary, it is unlikely that the featherbed would provide a comfortable sleeping surface if used without other padding on a platform bed. Thus, while its function or use is similar to that of a mattress, i.e., to provide comfort and support to the sleeper, the featherbed in question does not rise to the level of a mattress.

Counsel compares its featherbed to the bassinet pad classified in Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 952653, dated December 31, 1992. In that case, a bassinet pad that had a hardwood base and was "used by babies as a bed", was found to be a mattress under subheading 9404.29.9000, HTSUSA. However, a distinction can be drawn between the bassinet pad and the featherbed, because the bassinet pad, unlike the featherbed, had the requisite bulk and degree of firmness to be used alone as a bed.

The featherbed at issue appears to resemble the sheepskin mattress pads that were classified in NY 881135, dated December 23, 1992. Those pads had an upper surface of knit pile wool fabric, an underside of 100% cotton woven fabric, and were stuffed with a wool filler. They were classified as other items of bedding under subheading 9404.90.9060, HTSUSA. Although we are of the opinion that both the sheepskin mattress pads and the featherbeds currently under consideration are correctly classified under subheading 9404.90, HTSUSA, we do not agree with their designation in both NY 881135 and NY 895597 as "mattress pads". The chief purpose of mattress pads is to protect the underlying mattress. In contrast, featherbeds, and we hazard, the sheepskin "mattress pads", are designed to cushion the sleeper. Indeed, the advertising material for featherbeds reveals that special featherbed protectors are available for sale. Therefore, describing the featherbeds as "mattress pads" in NY 895597 was incorrect. New York Customs acknowledges this error, and suggests that the featherbeds should be generically labeled "mattress toppers". However, despite the misnomer, the featherbeds were nonetheless correctly classified at the six- digit level in NY 895597 as other items of bedding under subheading 9404.90, HTSUSA.

Subheading 9404.90.80, HTSUSA, covers other articles of bedding of cotton, not containing any embroidery, lace, braid, edging, trimming, piping exceeding 6.35 mm or applique work. At first glance, the featherbed at issue would appear to fall under this provision, because the interior and exterior shells are of 100 percent woven cotton, and the piping measures less then 6.35 mm. However, the featherbed also contains an inner filling of feathers. Subheading 9404.90.90, HTSUSA, provides for other articles of bedding of other materials, and therefore, the featherbed also meets the terms of that subheading.

GRI 2(b) directs that goods consisting of more than one material or substance are to be classified according to the principles of GRI 3. GRI 3(a) provides, in pertinent part, that when two or more headings refer to part only of the materials or substances in a composite good, the headings are to be considered equally specific. This is the case here, at the subheading level, therefore GRI 3(a) is not applicable.

GRI 3(b) provides that mixtures and composite goods consisting of different materials or made up of different components, shall be classified as if they consisted of the material or component which gives them their essential character. In previous rulings, Customs has determined that the outer shell or covering of certain bedding articles and similar furnishings falling under heading 9404 imparts the essential character. See HRL 952479, dated January 4, 1993 [baby seat cushion]; HRL 951526, dated August 14, 1992 [infant seat cushion]. More recently, in Treasury Decision (T.D.) 94-25, Customs modified this long-held position in situations involving down comforters, by determining that the down filling in comforters with cotton outer shells imparted the comforters' essential character, primarily for the reasons that down has unique insulating qualities and high costs. T.D. 94-25 does not apply here, however, because the filler used in the featherbeds is feathers, not down, and the decision is restricted to down. Even if we were to employ the rationale used in T.D. 94-25, however, the lower cost and warming property of feathers as opposed to down would mandate adherence to the traditional view that the outer cotton shell imparts essential character. We note that the costs of the featherbed's feather fill and shell are roughly on par. By providing the featherbed's distinctive appearance and shape and protecting the user from quills, the cotton shell represents essential character.


The featherbed is classifiable under subheading 9404.90.8040, HTSUSA, as a mattress support; article of bedding and similar furnishing (for example, mattresses, quilts, eiderdowns, cushions, pouffes and pillows) fitted with springs or stuffed or internally fitted with any material or of cellular rubber or plastics, whether or not covered: Other: Other: Of cotton, not containing any embroidery, lace, braid, edging, trimming, piping exceeding 6.35 mm or applique work: Other. It is dutiable at a rate of 5% ad valorem, and is subject to textile quota category 369.

The classification remains unchanged from that arrived at in NY 895597, which is the ruling currently being reconsidered.

The designated textile and apparel category may be subdivided into parts. If so, visa and quota requirements applicable to the subject merchandise may be affected. Since part categories ar the result of international bilateral agreements which are the subject of frequent negotiations and changes, to obtain the most current information available, we suggest you check, close to the time of shipment, the Status Report on Current Import Quotas (Restraint Levels), an issuance of the U.S. Customs Service, which is updated weekly and is available at the local Customs office.

Due to the changeable nature of the statistical annotation (the ninth and tenth digits of the classification) and the restraint (quota/visa) categories, you should contact the local Customs office prior to importing the merchandise to determine the current status of any import restraints or requirements.


John Durant
Director, Commercial

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