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NY A80269

February 20, 1996

MAR-2-96:RR:NC:GI:113 A80269


Mr. Arthur D. Dilling
Micropore, Inc.
1480 Gould Drive
Cookeville, TN 38506


Dear Mr. Dilling:

This is in response to your letter dated January 29, 1996, requesting a ruling on whether imported hand stamps without dies are required to be individually marked with the country of origin if they are later to be finished in the U.S. by a U.S. manufacturer. Marked samples were submitted with your letter for review. They are produced in Singapore, Malaysia and Sweden.

The merchandise consists of a variety of hand stamps without dies. The die is the rubber plate with the name, address or other information that the ultimate purchaser wishes to have put on the stamp. You mount the rubber die onto the stamp in-house, 75% of the time. You ship the unfinished stamps to associates for finishing, 25% of the time.

The marking statute, section 304, Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C. 1304), provides that, unless excepted, every article of foreign origin (or its container) imported into the U.S. 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 of the article.

Part 134, Customs Regulations (19 CFR Part 134), implements the country of origin marking requirements and exceptions of 19 U.S.C. 1304. Section 134.41(b), Customs Regulations (19 CFR 134.41(b)), mandates that the ultimate purchaser in the U.S. must be able to find the marking easily and read it without strain. Section 134.1(d), defines the ultimate purchaser as generally the last person in the U.S. who will receive the article in the form in which it was imported. 19 CFR 134.1(d)(1) states that if an imported article will be used in manufacture, providing that such manufacture results in an article having a name, character or use differing from that of the constituent article, it will be considered substantially transformed and the manufacturer or processor will be considered the ultimate purchaser of the constituent materials. In such circumstances, the imported article is excepted from marking and only the outermost container is required to be marked. See, 19 CFR 134.35.

However, a substantial transformation occurs only when articles lose their identity and become new articles having a new name, character or use. United States v. Gibson-Thomsen Co., 27 CCPA 267 at 270 (1940), National Juice Products Association v. United States, 10 CIT 48, 628 F. Supp. 978 (1986), Koru North America v. United States, 12 CIT ___, 701 F. Supp. 229 (CIT 1988). In the instant case, the sample merchandise in its imported condition is unfinished hand stamps, that is, substantially complete hand stamps having all of the physical characteristics of hand stamps. They lack only the rubber die with the information which can only be provided by the retail customer.

Although the hand stamps will undergo an additional operation in the United States, the operation is not one which results in a change of identity. The item is simply assembled with a rubber die. In C.S.D. 85-25, (HQ 071827), (September 25, 1984), Customs held that an assembly will not constitute a substantial transformation unless the operation is "complex and meaningful." Customs criteria for whether an operation is "complex and meaningful" depends on the nature of the operation, including the number of components assembled, number of different operations involved, and whether a significant period of time, skill, detail, and quality control are necessary for the assembly operation. This criteria for determining whether a substantial transformation occurs is applied on a case-by-case basis. The present manufacturing process is a mere combining process that is not complex nor requires a great deal of skill. If the processing in the U.S. does not change the name, character, or use of an article, it will not be substantially transformed and the article must be marked to indicate its country of origin no matter how it was imported.

In this case, the imported stamps are not substantially transformed as a result of the U.S. processing, and therefore the U.S. retail purchaser is the ultimate purchaser of the imported stamps. They are not excepted from marking. Neither is the marking of the supplied samples acceptable. In each case, the stamps are marked inside the base or inside the cap. This marking is completely concealed when the cap is in place. The stamps must be marked on the outside, on an area which will not be later concealed by a label. Some of the stamps also have the address of a United States company on them. In such a case, the words "Made in [country of origin]" must appear in close proximity to, and in the same size as, the US information.

This ruling is being issued under the provisions of Part 177 of the Customs Regulations (19 CFR Part 177).

A copy of the ruling or the control number indicated above should be provided with the entry documents filed at the time this merchandise is imported. If you have any questions regarding the ruling, contact National Import Specialist James Smyth at 212-466-2084.


Roger J. Silvestri

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