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HQ 559245

December 13, 1995

MAR-05 RR:TC:SM 559245 KKV


Ms. Laura Deniz
Import Manager
Evans & Wood & Co.
P.O. Box 610005
Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, TX 75261

RE: Country of Origin Marking; Cutlery and Steak Knife Set; 19 CFR 134.46, 19 CFR 134.43, Unsealed Box

Dear Ms. Deniz:

This is in response to your letter dated May 23, 1995, in which you request a ruling concerning the country of origin marking requirements for merchandise described as "cutlery and steak knife sets" to be imported from China. Specifically, your letter inquires whether the proposed marking "Box printed in China. Cutlery and Block are imported as marked on the product" would be acceptable to Customs. Although no sample has been provided, a photocopy of an incomplete portion of the rough layout for the container has been supplied to Customs.


No information has been provided which identifies the articles which are to be included in the item designated by the requesting party as a "cutlery and steak knife set," nor has information been provided regarding the respective country of origin for each of these articles. Also, no information has been provided regarding the manner in which the individual articles are to be marked, nor the placement of any marking upon the articles.

The photocopy of the rough layout of the box is marked in the following manner. As submitted, the language on the side panel of the box reads as follows:

These knives are guaranteed to the original purchaser for the lifetime of the original purchaser to be free from defects in materials and workmanship. Return defective piece and it will be repaired or replaced if the product is still available. Otherwise a product of equal value will be substituted. Enclose this warranty, proof of purchase and $4.00 for shipping and handling. This warranty gives
your specific legal rights and you may also have other rights which vary from state to state. We are not responsible for any incidental or consequential damage. Some states do not allow the exclusion of incidental or consequential damages so this exclusion may not apply to you. Wooden block is excluded from the warranty. Box printed in China. Cutlery and block are imported as marked on the product. Customer Service,
P.O. Box 224442, Dallas, TX 75222.


Does the marking which appears on the rough layout of a box containing a cutlery and steak knife set satisfy the country of origin marking requirements of 19 U.S.C. 1304 and 19 CFR Part 134?


Section 304 of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C. 1304), provides that, unless excepted, every article of foreign origin imported into the United States shall be marked in a conspicuous place as legibly, indelibly and permanently as the nature of the article (or its container) will permit, in such a manner as to indicate to the ultimate purchaser in the U.S., the English name of the country of origin.

Part 134, Customs regulations (19 CFR Part 134), implements the country of origin marking requirements and exceptions of 19 U.S.C. 1304. One of the exceptions to the general marking requirement is codified in 19 U.S.C. 1304(a)(3)(D) (as implemented by 19 CFR 134.32(d)), which provides that an article may be excepted from marking if the marking of its container will reasonably indicated its origin to the ultimate purchaser.

Section 134.46, Customs Regulations (19 CFR 134.46) contains more restrictive marking requirements designed to alleviate the possibility of misleading an ultimate purchaser with regard to the country of origin of an imported article. Specifically, 19 CFR 134.46 requires that, in instances where the name of any city or locality in the U.S., or the name of any foreign country or locality other than the name of the country or locality in which the article was manufactured or produced, appears on an imported article or its container, there shall appear, legibly and permanently, in close proximity to such words, letters or name, and in at least a comparable size, the name of the country of origin preceded by "Made in," "Product of," or other words of similar meaning. Customs has ruled that in order to satisfy the close proximity requirement, the country of origin marking must appear on the same side(s) or surface(s) in which the name of the locality other than the country of origin appears (See HQ 708994, dated April 24, 1978).

The more restrictive requirements of 19 CFR 134.46 are designed to alleviate the possibility of any misleading of an ultimate purchaser with regard to the country of origin of an imported article, if such article or its container includes language which may suggest a U.S. origin (or other foreign locality not the correct country of origin). However, Customs has held that, under certain conditions, geographic names appearing in connection with imported articles do not necessarily trigger the requirements of 19 CFR 134.46 if the context in which the names are used is such that confusion by the ultimate purchaser regarding country of origin is not possible (See C.S.D. 90-31, dated December 20, 1989).

In Headquarters Ruling Letter 558026, dated May 1, 1995, Customs considered the language on an instruction book which was enclosed within a container holding an imported dental syringe. The company name and a U.S. address were printed in two locations on the booklet. In holding that the more stringent requirements of 19 CFR 134.46 were not triggered by such language, Customs found that the company name and U.S. address were located in places which invited customers to contact the company with questions pertaining to the assembly of the syringe and its use. Noting that the instruction book was enclosed within the article's container and not visible to the ultimate purchaser at the point of sale, Customs held that "there is no possibility that the U.S. address printed in these locations will cause confusion to the ultimate purchaser as to the country of origin of the syringe."

On the rough layout under consideration, the non-origin U.S. address has been clearly designated as the point of contact for customer service concerns. Immediately preceding this information, the importer has included country of origin information. Without immediately commenting about the sufficiency of the language of the country of origin marking proposed by the importer, we find that combination of the customer service reference together with the non-origin geographical reference in such close proximity is sufficient to alleviate the possibility that a potential purchaser will be misled with regard to the actual country of origin. Having thus concluded that the non-origin locality reference would not mislead or deceive an ultimate purchaser as to the country of origin of the imported article, we find that the special marking requirements of 19 CFR 134.46 are not triggered, and the origin marking needs to satisfy the general requirements of permanency, legibility and conspicuousness under 19 U.S.C. 1304 and 19 CFR Part 134.

Customs under certain circumstances, previously has allowed importers to place a marking on the exterior container instructing the ultimate purchaser to view the actual article to determine its country of origin. In HQ 734101, dated July 9, 1991, Customs allowed toys sold inside plastic eggs in a vending machine to be individually marked with the actual country of origin but, because this information was not visible, Customs permitted the machine to be marked "The Toys Contained In This Machine Are Marked With The Country of Origin, And May Be Made In One Or More Of The Following Countries: Hong Kong Taiwan China." In HQ 734491, dated April 12, 1992, Customs ruled that an importer of automobile parts may mark the packaging "Contents Imported, See Article for Country of Origin." In HQ 734544, dated July 24, 1992, Customs
permitted an importer to mark the cartons not only with the possible countries of origin, but also with the instruction to inspect the item itself for the actual country of origin. However, in order to qualify for this type of marking, Customs held that the carton must be unsealed, so as to permit the purchaser to inspect the product prior to purchase.

In Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 734469, dated September 22, 1992, Customs ruled that hang tags which were affixed to conspicuously marked sunglasses and marked with the words "Country of Origin Indicated On Sunglasses" in close proximity and in at least a comparable size to the non-origin geographical reference "Dallas, TX U.S.A." satisfied the country of origin requirements of 19 CFR 134.46.

In HRL 735321, dated January 19, 1995, Customs discussed the acceptability of proposed marking samples for cutlery and an accompanying wood block in the context of the more restrictive requirements of 19 CFR 134.46 and 134.47. In reviewing proposed blueprints of boxes for marking requirements, Customs ruled that, where country of origin marking reading "Cutlery and Storage Block made in Taiwan or china as indicated on the product" appeared on the side panel of an unsealed box in a separate paragraph from the warranty information, such language was acceptable for purposes of 19 CFR 134.46, provided that the actual country of origin appeared on the individual knife and block.

In light of the statutory requirements and analysis set forth above, we would require certain changes to your proposed marking. In accordance with the position taken by Customs in HRL 735321, dated January 19, 1995, discussed previously, if the proposed language on the rough layout is re-worded so as to indicate the availability of country of origin information to the ultimate purchaser (i.e., "Contents Imported, See Article For Country of Origin Marking," "Cutlery and Storage Block Made In Country A, Country B, As Indicated On The Product" or "Contents Marked with Country of Origin") and this information is conspicuously placed in a separate paragraph, Customs would consider such marking to be acceptable PROVIDED THAT the box remains unsealed (thus permitting an ultimate purchaser the opportunity to inspect the product prior to purchase), and the individual articles contained within the box are properly marked.

Additionally, it is noted that some of the items contained within the cutlery and steak knife set under consideration are subject to the special marking requirements for designated articles, as set forth in 19 CFR 134.43(a), which provides,

Except for goods of a NAFTA country, articles of a class or kind listed below shall be marked legibly and conspicuously by die stamping, case-in-the-mold lettering, etching (acid or electrolytic) engraving, or by means of metal plates...knives, forks, steels, cleavers, shears, scissors, safety razors, blades for safety razors,
surgical instruments, pliers, pincers, nippers and hand tools for holding and splicing wire, vacuum containers, and parts of the above articles.

Therefore, the knives and any other such designated articles contained within the set (i.e., steel, scissors, etc.) must be individually marked in accordance with this section.


Reference on the retail container of the cutlery and block to a non-origin locality geographical reference which is clearly designated as a customer service point of contact does not trigger the more stringent marking requirements of 19 CFR 134.46.

Where the retail container of an imported article contains a specific instruction directing the purchaser to inspect the contents for country of origin marking, such marking will satisfy the requirements of 19 CFR Part 134, provided that the exterior container remains unsealed so as to permit the ultimate purchaser the opportunity to examine the contents of the container, and the contents are individually marked with the country of origin.

A copy of this ruling letter should be attached to the entry documents filed at the time this merchandise is entered. If the documents have been filed without a copy, this ruling should be brought to the attention of the Customs officer handling the transaction.


John Durant, Director

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