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HQ 959167

April 3, 1997

CLA-2 RR:TC:TE 959167 GGD


TARIFF NO.: 4202.99.9000

Port Director
U.S. Customs Service
111 West Huron Street, Room 603
Buffalo, New York 14202-2378

RE: Internal Advice Request No. 6/96; Plastic Fly Fishing Boxes; Not Fishing Equipment or Accessories; Note 1(d) to Chapter 95; Note 2(h) to Chapter 39; Totes, Inc. v. U.S.

Dear Sir:

This letter is in response to Internal Advice Request No. 6/96, initiated by a letter dated January 19, 1996, and an addendum dated April 1, 1996, submitted by Serko & Simon, One World Trade Center, Suite 3371, New York, New York, 10048, on behalf of Angler Sport Group. The request concerns the classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA), of fly fishing boxes made in Denmark and imported without flies, other lures, fishing tackle, etc. Ten separate styles of sample containers were submitted. Subsequent to the request and submission, a conference was held with Headquarters personnel on January 28, 1997. An additional submission was subsequently received and considered.


The samples are molded plastic boxes, the smallest of which measures approximately 2-3/4 inches in length by 2-1/8 inches in width by 7/8 of an inch in depth, and the largest of which measures approximately 5-1/2 inches in length by 4 inches in width by 1-3/8 inches in depth. Each of the items is a small case specially shaped or fitted to hold the flies used by fly fishermen. Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language (1972), defines "fly," in pertinent part as "2. A hook -2-
covered with feathers, colored silk, etc. to resemble an insect, used as a lure in fishing: a wet fly drifts below the surface of the water, and a dry fly floats on it." (Emphasis in original)

Each box has at least one hinged lid with a snap closure and a molded tab with a hole through which a chain or string may be looped to help prevent loss if the box is dropped. Some of the articles' interiors contain corrugated, molded pieces of soft plastic (into which the flies' hooks may be embedded). Those box interiors without corrugated soft plastic are subdivided into smaller compartments, each of which may have its own individual lid. Two of the styles have lids on both their top and bottom surfaces. One of these two styles has a subdivided top compartment and a bottom compartment containing corrugated soft plastic. Fly fishing boxes are said to be essential to the sport of fly fishing and specifically designed, manufactured, marketed, distributed, and purchased to allow a fly fisherman to conveniently and quickly change flies while fishing.


Whether the fly fishing boxes are classified in heading 9507, HTSUS, as fishing equipment or accessories; in heading 3923, HTSUS, as plastic articles for the conveyance or packing of goods; in heading 3926, HTSUS, as other articles of plastics; or in heading 4202, HTSUS, as other containers similar to either flatgoods or to cases specially shaped or fitted to contain specific articles.


Classification under the HTSUS is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI). GRI 1 provides that the classification of goods shall be determined 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 GRI may then be applied. The Explanatory Notes (EN) 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 GRI.

Among other merchandise, Chapter 95, HTSUS, covers sports equipment and parts and accessories thereof. Heading 9507, HTSUS, provides for "Fishing rods, fish hooks and other line fishing tackle...parts and accessories thereof." Note 1(d) to -3-
chapter 95, HTSUS, states "This chapter does not cover: Sports bags or other containers of heading 4202, 4303 or 4304." The EN to chapter 95 indicate that "Each of the headings of this chapter also covers identifiable parts and accessories of articles of this Chapter which are suitable for use solely or principally therewith, and provided they are not articles excluded by Note 1 to this Chapter." EN (c) to heading 9507 suggests that "fishing rod cases and game bags" are examples of "sports bags and other containers" excluded by the heading.

Heading 4202, HTSUS, provides for "Trunks, suitcases, vanity cases...spectacle cases, binocular cases, camera cases, musical instrument cases, gun cases, holsters and similar containers; traveling bags...wallets, purses, map cases, cigarette cases, tobacco pouches...and similar containers, of leather or of composition leather, of sheeting of plastics, of textile materials, of vulcanized fiber or of paperboard, or wholly or mainly covered with such materials or with paper."

The EN to heading 4202 suggest that "Subject to Notes 1 and 2 to this Chapter, the articles covered by the first part of the heading may be of any material. The expression "similar containers" in the first part includes hat boxes, camera accessory cases, cartridge pouches, sheaths for hunting or camping knives, portable tool boxes or cases, specially shaped or internally fitted to contain particular tools with or without their accessories, etc."

With regard to the second part of heading 4202, the EN indicate that "The articles covered...must, however, be only of the materials specified therein or must be wholly or mainly covered with such materials or with paper (the foundation may be of wood, metal, etc.). The expression "similar containers" in this second part includes note-cases, writing-cases, pen-cases, ticket-cases, needle-cases, key-cases, cigar-cases, pipe-cases, tool and jewellery rolls, shoe-cases, brush-cases, etc."

The requester contends that the fly fishing boxes are so essential to fly fishing - providing order and protecting the flies from clothing, rain, and gusts of wind - that they must be classified as fishing equipment or accessories. Fly fishing boxes are said to have an identity and purpose separate from tackle boxes. They must be carried in the vest pocket or elsewhere on the person to allow for the fly fisherman to substitute or replace flies in mid-stream. -4-

The requester asserts that, because the boxes of molded plastics are specifically designed to be carried in the pocket, they are similar to articles classified as flatgoods - articles normally carried in the pocket or handbag - in the second part of heading 4202, HTSUS (i.e., after the semicolon). However, since the EN state that flatgoods of plastics must have an outer surface composition of sheeting of plastics, the requester maintains that the boxes are not classifiable anywhere in heading 4202, and are therefore not excluded from heading 9507, HTSUS, by note 1(d) to chapter 95.

It does not automatically follow that, because the fly fishing boxes are sufficiently small to be carried in a pocket, they are classifiable as articles of a kind normally carried in the pocket or in the handbag. Although fly fishing boxes may be carried in the pocket by fly fisherman, they would normally only carry the boxes while fishing. By way of contrast, in HQ 958048, issued November 6, 1996, this office held that a blood glucose testing kit was an article of a kind that would normally be carried in the pocket or handbag of a diabetic person. The case, which was small enough to comfortably fit into the pockets of most garments, contained compartments and slots to hold test strips, lancets, a lancing device, and a sensor, all of which could be needed for prompt monitoring of blood glucose levels at any time.

Even if they possessed an outer surface composition of sheeting of plastics, the fly fishing boxes would not necessarily be classifiable as flatgoods. In Totes, Incorporated v. United States, 18 C.I.T. ___, 865 F. Supp. 867 (1994), aff'd, 14 Fed. Cir. (T) ___, 69 F.3d 495 (1995), the Court of International Trade held that the essential characteristics and purposes of the heading 4202 exemplars are to organize, store, protect and carry various items. The fly fishing boxes have been expressly designed for these purposes and are, therefore, prima facie classifiable within heading 4202, HTSUS. Since "other containers of heading 4202" are excluded from chapter 95 by note 1(d) to the chapter, the fly fishing boxes are not classifiable as fishing equipment or accessories in heading 9507, HTSUS.

The issue as to whether the fly fishing boxes may be classified under heading 3923, HTSUS, as plastic articles for the conveyance or packing of goods, or heading 3926, HTSUS, as other articles of plastics, is disposed of by note 2(ij) to chapter 39, HTSUS. The legal note states, in pertinent part, that "This chapter does not cover...trunks, suitcases, handbags or other -5-
containers of heading 4202." The fly fishing boxes are thus precluded from classification under either heading 3923 or 3926, HTSUS.

We find that the fly fishing boxes are similar to the containers enumerated in the second half of the first part of heading 4202, HTSUS, which generally are shaped or fitted to hold their contents. Although fly fishing boxes are not named in heading 4202, HTSUS, nor suggested in the EN as example containers, Customs need not show that the merchandise specifically matches these descriptions. As the Court stated in Totes, "[p]recise functional equivalence to, or commercial interchangeability with, any one particular exemplar enumerated in the Heading plainly is not required by the rule of ejusdem generis." 865 F. Supp. at 874. "[T]he rule of ejusdem generis requires only that the merchandise possess the essential character or purpose running through all of the enumerated exemplars." Id. at 872.

In HQ 958184, issued January 30, 1996, we found that an airtight, watertight cylinder of molded plastics, was a specially shaped and fitted container designed to protect, store, and transport welding rods. After noting that the article was classifiable within heading 4202, classification under headings 3923 and 3926 was found to be precluded by the legal note to chapter 39, HTSUS. The container was classified in subheading 4202.99.0000, HTSUSA.

The requester cites to HQ 954260, issued May 4, 1994, in which a tackle box, as well as all the other components of a child's fishing kit, were classified under heading 9507, HTSUS. Unlike the empty fly fishing boxes, the tackle box was designed to be attached to the accompanying rod, and was imported containing fishing tackle, including metal hooks, sinkers, a packet of artificial bait, and a line bobber. Although not stated in the ruling, it appears that the tackle box may have satisfied the criteria of GRI 5(a). The rule allows certain containers to be classified with the items they are designed to hold (which in HQ 954260 was fishing tackle of heading 9507). In pertinent part, GRI 5(a) states that:

Camera cases, musical instrument cases, gun cases, drawing instrument cases, necklace cases and similar containers, specially shaped or fitted to contain a specific article or set of articles, suitable for long-term use and entered with the articles for which they are intended, shall be classified with such articles when of a kind normally sold therewith. -6-

Whether or not GRI 5(a) formed the basis upon which the child's tackle box was ultimately classified under heading 9507, HTSUS, the ruling made no reference to the fact that tackle boxes are generally held to be classified within heading 4202, HTSUS. See, for example, HQ 951738, issued August 11, 1992, in which the determination that two tackle boxes of molded plastics were considered similar to, and classifiable as, containers of heading 4202, removed from consideration heading 9507, by virtue of note 1(d) to chapter 95, HTSUS. The legal note to chapter 39, and our finding that the tackle boxes were not of a kind designed to transport large quantities of goods over long distances, precluded the items from classification under heading 3923. The boxes were classified in subheading 4202.99.9000, HTSUSA. See also HQ 953696, issued August 26, 1993.

In light of all of the foregoing, we find that the fly fishing boxes are properly classified in subheading 4202.99.9000, HTSUSA.


The fly fishing boxes are properly classified in subheading 4202.99.9000, HTSUSA, the provision for "Trunks, suitcases, vanity cases, attache cases, briefcases, school satchels, spectacle cases, binocular cases, camera cases, musical instrument cases, gun cases, holsters and similar containers...: Other: Other: Other." The applicable duty rate is 20 percent ad valorem.

This decision should be mailed by your office to the internal advice requester no later than 60 days from the date of this letter. After sixty days, the Office of Regulations and Rulings will take steps to make the decision available to Customs personnel via the Customs Rulings Module in ACS, and to the public via the Diskette Subscription Service, Freedom of Information Act, and other public access channels.


John Durant, Director

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