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HQ 960594

October 13, 1998

CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 960594 HMC


TARIFF NO.: 3926.90.25

Melvin S. Schwechter
LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae
1875 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20009-5728

RE: Cookware Handle; Subheading 7323.93.00; GRI 3(b); Explanatory Note VIII to GRI 3(b); Explanatory Note 39.26; Other Articles of Plastics, Handles of Plastics; Other Household Articles of Stainless Steel; HQ 089168; NY 812554; NY B85082, Affirmed.

Dear Mr. Schwechter:

This is in response to your letter, dated June 12, 1997, on behalf of T-Fal Corporation, requesting reconsideration of New York Ruling Letter (NY) B85082, dated May 15, 1997. In NY B85082, Customs classified a cookware handle made in France, as handles of plastics under subheading 3926.90.25 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). Consideration was also given to arguments presented at our meeting on July 23, 1998, and your supplemental submission, dated October 6, 1998. Samples were provided for examination.


The merchandise is a cookware handle made of plastic and stainless steel, measuring approximately 6 1/2 inches in length. The plastic is a thermoplastic and a thermal set phenolic compound, that houses a stainless steel spring mechanism. The metal spring is connected to a retractable clamp located in the front of the handle. By pushing a button on top of the handle, the spring mechanism is released, the clamp opens, and a lever descends from the bottom of the handle. The clamp secures a pan to the handle when the lever is squeezed back towards the handle. A stainless steel plate is attached to the handle's front bottom by a stainless steel screw. You state that the plate reinforces the handle and protects it from the heat generated by the cooking process.

The provisions under consideration are as follows:

3926 Other articles of plastics and articles of other materials of headings 3901 to 3914: 3926.90 Other:
3926.90.25 Handles and knobs, not elsewhere specified or included, of plastics...6.5%

7323 Table, kitchen or other household articles and parts thereof, of iron or steel; iron or steel wool; pot scourers and scouring or polishing pads, gloves and the like, of iron or steel:
7323.93.00 Of stainless steel...2.3%


Whether the cookware handle is classifiable as other articles of plastics under subheading 3926.90.25, HTSUS, or as other household articles of steel under subheading 7323.93.00, HTSUS.


Merchandise is classifiable under the HTSUS in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). GRI 1 states in part that for legal purposes, classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes, and provided the headings or notes do not require otherwise, according to GRIs 2 through 6.

The subject handle is made of plastic and stainless steel. The article is thus described by heading 3926, the provision for other articles of plastics and heading 7323, the provision for household articles of iron or steel.

GRI 3(a) states that when, by application of rule 2(b) or for any other reason, goods are, prima facie, classifiable under two or more headings, the heading which provides the most specific description shall be preferred to headings providing a more general description. However, when two or more headings each refer to part only of the materials or substances contained in mixed or composite goods or to part only of the items in a set put up for retail sale, those headings are to be regarded as equally specific in relation to those goods, even if one of them gives a more complete or precise description of the goods. The cookware handle is made up of different components which together form an inseparable whole. Also, the metal spring mechanism, the metal plate and the clamp will not be sold separately from the plastic handle. Since the cookware handle is a composite good, described in part by two or more headings, we must apply rule 3(b) which requires that composite goods are to be classified according to the component which gives the good its essential character.

The Harmonized Commodity Description And Coding System Explanatory Notes (EN's) constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized system. While not legally binding on the contracting parties, and therefore not dispositive, the EN's provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the Harmonized System and are thus useful in ascertaining the classification of merchandise under the System. Customs believes the EN's should always be consulted. See T.D. 89-80, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (Aug. 23, 1989).

In general, essential character has been construed to mean that attribute which strongly marks or serves to distinguish what an article is; that which is indispensable to the structure, core or condition of the article. EN (VIII) to GRI 3(b), at page 4, states that the factor which determines essential character will vary as between different kinds of goods. It may, for example, be determined by the nature of the material or component, its bulk, quantity, weight or value, or by the role of a constituent material in relation to the use of the goods.

You claim in your submissions that the essential character of the article is imparted by the stainless steel components because these components protect and help the handle function properly and because the weight and value of the steel is higher than that of the plastic. You state that the weight of the stainless steel component is 52.05 percent of the handle and that the value of the steel parts is 51.98 percent of the handle.

We disagree with your contention that the essential character of the handle is imparted by the stainless steel. Although none of these figures is substantiated, even if they were, we believe that, in this instance, the difference in the weight and value of the steel versus the plastics is minimal and does not resolve the issue of essential character. As determined in NY B85082, we find that the differences in value and weight between the steel and the plastic are minor. It is the role of the constituent materials in relation to the use of the goods that imparts the essential character. Notwithstanding that clearly the plastic materials predominate significantly over the steel components in terms of bulk, the vital factor in this instance is the function the plastic plays in the handle. The subject handle is specially designed to attach to aluminum pans that lack a handle. The handle is used in the cooking process to move pans which are hot. This function is only possible because of the handle's plastic components. Indeed, the only reason one would use the handle is to avoid touching a very hot pan. The plastic materials in the handle are a non-conductor of heat which allow a person to hold pans without burning the hand.

You state that a plastic plate and clamp would likely melt or become damaged after repeated exposure to heat. Although a steel clamp may better protect against heat, we note the Plastic Engineering Handbook of the Society of the Plastics Industry and the Condensed Chemical Dictionary, which state that phenolic resins are known for their excellent heat resistance at temperatures up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Thus, we believe that the thermoplastic and thermal set phenolic compound plastic found in the handle is of special type, specifically designed to resist high temperatures.

You further argue that only because the spring mechanism is made of stainless steel, is the subject article able to function as a detachable cookware handle and that bulk is irrelevant because it has nothing to do with the proper function of the handle. In HQ 089168, dated May 17, 1991, which classified window shade rollers, Customs found that although the roller's metal springs allowed the window shade to be raised and lowered, it was the roller that permitted the window shade to function as a shade. The spring merely assisted in this function. Similarly, we find that the metal spring, in this instance, is used to facilitate the main function of holding a hot pan in one's hand without getting burnt. We therefore conclude that the stainless steel portions are of less importance than the plastic portion. It is the plastic that imparts the essential character to the cookware handle; that attribute which strongly marks or serves to distinguish this handle..

Chapter 39, HTSUS, provides for articles of plastics. EN 39.26 states, at page 622, that heading 3926 covers articles, not elsewhere specified or included, of plastics (as defined in Note 1 to the Chapter) or of other materials of headings 3901 to 3914. The EN further states that this heading includes handles (of tools, knives, forks, etc.), beads, watch "glasses," figures and letters, luggage label-holders. We believe the merchandise meets the definition of the ENs. Accordingly, we find that the cookware handle is classifiable under subheading 3926.90.25, HTSUS. See NY 812554, dated August 9, 1995, for a similar finding. NY B85082 is affirmed.


Under the authority of GRI 3(b), the T-Fal's cookware handle is classifiable in subheading 3926.90.25, HTSUS, as other articles of plastics and articles of other materials of headings 3901 to 3914: Other: Handles and knobs, not elsewhere specified or included, of plastics. The rate of duty is 6.5%.

NY B85082 is affirmed


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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