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 > 1997 NY Rulings > NY A87084 - NY A87207 > NY A87158

Previous Ruling Next Ruling
NY A87158

September 23, 1996

MAR-2-96:RR:NC:GM:113 A87158


Mr. Kenneth Lowrance
Superior Rubber Stamp & Seal, Inc.
2725 E. Douglas
P.O. Box 2258
Wichita, KS 67201


Dear Mr. Lowrance:

This is in response to your letter dated August 20, 1996, requesting a ruling on whether imported hand stamp mounts are required to be individually marked with the country of origin. Samples of the article in its condition as imported, as well as the article as finished were submitted with your letter for review. The stamp mounts are produced in Hong Kong.

The merchandise consists of an unfinished hand stamp without its die. 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 yourself, after receiving the custom order from your customer. The mount is tubular, about 2 inches long and 1 inch in diameter. It comes with a cap. When the stamp is used, a spring action causes the ink die to strike the surface, leaving its mark. 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 a unfinished hand stamp, that is, a substantially complete hand stamp having all of the physical characteristics of a hand stamp. It lacks only the rubber die with the information which can only be provided by the retail customer.

Although the hand stamp 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 stamp is 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 the marking, "Made in Hong Kong."

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

Previous Ruling Next Ruling