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HQ 961418

August 4, 1998

CLA-2 RR:CR:TE 961418 GGD


TARIFF NO.: 4820.10.2020

Paula M. Connelly, Esquire
Middleton & Shrull
44 Mall Road, Suite 208
Burlington, Massachusetts 01803-4530

RE: Revocation of New York Ruling Letter (NY) C83772; Articles of Stationery; Letter Pads; Memorandum Pads; Portfolio; Not Attache Case, Briefcase, School Satchel; Headings 4820, 4202; Avenues in Leather v. United States, Slip Op. 98-54, Decided April 24, 1998

Dear Ms. Connelly:

In New York Ruling Letter (NY) C83772, issued February 2, 1998, on behalf of The Gem Group, Incorporated, Customs classified a portfolio with writing pad in subheading 4202.12.8030, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA), textile category 670, which provides for "Trunks...attache cases, briefcases, school satchels and similar containers: With outer surface of textile materials: Other, Attache cases...occupational luggage cases and similar containers: Other: Of man-made fibers." We have reviewed that ruling and have found it to be in error. Therefore, this ruling revokes NY C83772.

Pursuant to section 625(c)(1), Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. 1625(c)(1)), as amended by section 623 of Title VI (Customs Modernization) of the North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act, Pub. L. 103-182, 107 Stat. 2057, 2186 (1993), notice of the proposed revocation of NY C83772 was published on July 1, 1998, in the Customs Bulletin, Volume 32, Number 26.


The goods at issue, although identified by several different style numbers (2550, 2551, 2552, and 2553), apparently differ from each other only in the color of their fabric. The merchandise is described as a "padfolio" and consists of a lined memorandum pad or writing pad (which measures approximately 8-1/2 inches in width by 11-3/4 inches in height by 1/4 inch in thickness) that is attached to the right interior side of a zippered jacket or case. The jacket, with pad inserted, measures approximately 13 inches in height by 10-1/2 inches in width by 1 inch in depth (in the closed position). The case is zippered on 3 sides and is composed of 100 percent polyester textile material with a leather-like trim of plastics.

The interior left side of the case features 2 flat, full-width slots for papers, 1 zippered, full-width pocket, and 6 slots (1 with a see-through plastic window) for business or credit cards. There is a pen holder sewn onto the interior spine. The article's exterior front has 1 flat, full-width slot.


Whether the article is classified in subheading 4202.12.8030, HTSUSA, the provision for attache cases, briefcases, school satchels, and similar containers; or in subheading 4820.10.2020, HTSUSA, the provision for letter pads, memorandum pads, and other articles of stationery, including jackets.


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 48, HTSUS, covers articles of paper or of paperboard. Note 1(h) to chapter 48, HTSUS, states that "[t]his chapter does not cover: Articles of heading 4202 (for example, travel goods)." Among the items covered by heading 4820, HTSUS, are notebooks, letter pads, memorandum pads, diaries and similar articles, binders (looseleaf or other), folders...and other articles of stationery...including cover boards and book jackets.... The EN to heading 4820 indicate that the heading covers various articles of stationery including (in addition to the examples noted above) notebooks of all kinds, file covers, files (other than box files), and portfolios. The EN also suggest that the goods of the heading may be bound with materials other than paper (e.g., leather, plastics or textile material) and have reinforcements or fittings of metal, plastics, etc.

Heading 4202, HTSUS, provides, in part, for attache cases, briefcases, and similar containers. The exemplars named in heading 4202 have in common the purpose of organizing, storing, protecting, and carrying various items. EN (c) to heading 4202 indicates that the heading does not cover articles which, although they may have the character of containers, are not similar to those enumerated in the heading, for example, book covers and reading jackets, file-covers, document-jackets...and which are wholly or mainly covered with leather, sheeting of plastics, etc. Such articles fall in heading 4205 if made of (or covered with) leather or composition leather, and in other chapters if made of (or covered with) other materials.

In several Headquarters Ruling Letters (HQ), Customs has considered the classification of goods featuring certain characteristics common to the enumerated exemplars of headings 4202 and 4820, HTSUS. In HQ 959791 and HQ 959792, dated February 11, 1997, and issued to modify HQ 955655 and HQ 955656 (dated July 14, 1995), respectively, this office found that competition between headings 4202 and 4820 was resolved by note 1(g) to chapter 48 (now note 1(h) to chapter 48), which excludes articles of heading 4202 from Chapter 48. We noted the requirement of GRI 1, that "classification shall be determined according to the terms of the headings and any relative section or chapter notes," and that other GRI may be used "provided such headings or notes do not otherwise require."

Since the exclusionary note to chapter 48, HTSUS, did require that other GRI not be used to determine classification, the fact that certain of the articles subject to HQ 955655 and HQ 955656 were prima facie classifiable in heading 4202, should have precluded classification of those goods under heading 4820, HTSUS. Analysis pursuant to any GRI other than GRI 1 was therefore inappropriate. On that basis, HQ 955655 and HQ 955656 were modified by HQ 959791 and HQ 959792, respectively. The above analysis was reiterated and fully supported in a decision by the Court of International Trade (CIT) in Avenues in Leather v. United States, Slip Op. 98-54, decided April 24, 1998 (hereinafter Avenues).

There remain a small number of rulings in which the exclusionary note to chapter 48 was applicable but not cited, and in which articles were found to be prima facie classifiable under both headings 4202 and 4820, HTSUS. In those rulings, the exclusionary note should have been applied to preclude classification within chapter 48. Rulings that have been issued by Customs under the provisions of 19 CFR Parts 174 or 177, that are inconsistent with the principles of the Avenues decision are revoked/modified by operation of law.

With regard to whether the "padfolio" is prima facie classifiable under heading 4202, HTSUS, it must be determined whether the article merely has the character of a 4202 container, or whether its purpose is to organize, store, protect, and carry various items. The "padfolio" is designed to organize and perhaps protect small and/or flat items in addition to the writing pad. The case's depth of only 1 inch, however, and its lack of handles or straps, indicate that the article is not designed to easily store, protect, and carry additional items such as a newspaper, a book, and/or other objects normally carried in an attache case or briefcase. Although the case has the character of a container, with perhaps more features than a simple jacket or cover, it does not have the requisite physical attributes Customs has found common to the containers of heading 4202. We find that the jacket's added features serve to enhance the "padfolio's" primary purpose, which is to provide a convenient and organized method by which to take notes in various locations under a variety of circumstances.

In HQ 956940, issued November 25, 1994, this office classified in subheading 4820.10.2020, HTSUSA, two styles of portfolios whose dimensions (13-1/2 inches by 10 inches by 1 inch), features (zippered closure, pockets, slots, and pen holder), and contents (an 8-1/2 inch by 11 inch writing pad) were essentially the same as those of the "padfolio." Although those cases also possessed some features that might be found in an attache case, it was noted that the exterior and interior pockets were essentially flat and suitable only for loose papers, business cards, and other small, flat items. We concluded that the cases functioned primarily as organizational aids for note taking and that they retained the character of jackets and covers that are not covered by heading 4202. Since heading 4820 covers letter pads, memorandum pads, and other articles of stationery with jackets or covers, the pad and its case, as a whole, constitute an article of stationery. The "padfolio" is classified in subheading 4820.10.2020, HTSUSA.


The zippered portfolio with pad, identified as a "padfolio," and further identified by style nos. 2550, 2551, 2552, and 2553, is classified in subheading 4820.10.2020, HTSUSA, the provision for "Registers...diaries and similar articles: Diaries...and similar articles, Memorandum pads, letter pads and similar articles." The general column one duty rate is 2.8 percent ad valorem.

NY C83772, issued February 2, 1998, is hereby revoked. In accordance with 19 U.S.C. 1625(c)(1), this ruling will become effective 60 days after its publication in the Customs Bulletin. Publication of rulings or decisions pursuant to 19 U.S.C. 1625(c)(1) does not constitute a change of practice or position in accordance with section 177.10(c)(1), Customs Regulations


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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