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HQ 961722

June 25, 1998

CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 961722 MGM


TARIFF NO.: 2915.90.1050

Port Director
U.S. Customs Service
40 S. Gay Street
Baltimore, MD 21202

RE: Protest 1303-98-100017; 2-Methylbutyric Acid (CAS # 116-53-0)

Dear Port Director:

This is our decision on Protest 1303-98-100017, concerning your classification decision regarding the chemical compound 2-methylbutyric acid under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA).


The subject commodity is 2-methylbutyric acid (CAS # 116-53-1), also known as 2-methylbutyrate, 2-methylbutanoic acid, and methylethylacetic acid. Howard & Neal, Dictionary of Chemical Names and Synonyms. It has the chemical formula C5H10O2 . The structure of 2-methylbutyric acid is such that four carbons are arranged in a straight chain, with one of the terminal carbons of this chain being a carboxyl carbon, and the alpha carbon (adjacent to the carbonyl carbon) being bound to a methyl group.

Protestant was directed to enter the merchandise under subheading 2915.90.1050, HTSUSA, as "Saturated acyclic monocarboxylic acids and their anhydrides, halides, peroxides and peroxyacids; their halogenated, sulfonated, nitrated or nitrosated derivatives: other: acids: fatty acids of animal or vegetable origin: other. Protestant asserts that the merchandise is properly classified under subheading 2915.60.5000, HTSUSA, as "Saturated acyclic monocarboxylic acids...: butyric acids, valeric acids, their salts and esters: other. " The three entries here protested were made April 14, 1997, May 12, 1997, and May 24, 1997, and liquidated July 18, 1997, December 29, 1997, and December 19, 1997, respectively. All three entries were protested on February 18, 1998.


1. Whether the protest was filed in a timely manner.

2. Whether 2-methylbutyric acid is properly classified in subheading 2915.90.1050, HTSUSA, as a fatty acid of animal or vegetable origin.



A protest of a decision regarding the classification of merchandise must be filed with the Customs Service within ninety days of notice of liquidation. 19 U.S.C. ?1514(c)(3)(A); 19 CFR December 19, 1997, and December 29, 1997, and protested February 18, 1998. Thus, the protest was filed within the ninety day time limit with regard to the entries liquidated on December 19, and 29, 1997, but not the entry liquidated on July 18, 1997, which was not protested until 215 days after liquidation. The protest is not timely filed with regard to this entry.


Merchandise imported into the U.S. is classified under the HTSUSA. Tariff classification is governed by the principles set forth in the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs) and, in the absence of special language or context which requires otherwise, by the Additional U.S. Rules of Interpretation. The GRIs and the Additional U.S. Rules of Interpretation are part of the HTSUSA and are to be considered statutory provisions of law.

GRI 1 requires that classification be determined first according to the terms of the headings of the tariff schedule and any relative section or chapter notes and, unless otherwise required, according to the remaining GRIs taken in order. GRI 6 requires that the classification of goods in the subheadings of headings shall be determined according to the terms of those subheadings, any related subheading notes and mutatis mutandis, to the GRIs.

In understanding the language of the HTSUSA, the Explanatory Notes (ENs) of the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System may be utilized. The ENs, although not dispositive or legally binding, provide a commentary on the scope of each heading, and are generally indicative of the proper interpretation of the HTSUSA. See, T.D. 89-80, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127 (August 23, 1989).

Both parties agree that the merchandise is classified in heading 2915, HTSUSA. Heading 2915 provides for, inter alia, "Saturated acyclic monocarboxylic acids." 2-Methylbutyric acid is saturated (does not contain double bonds in the hydrocarbon chain), is acyclic, and has one carboxyl group, thus it is described by heading 2915. This matter involves a choice among subheadings within heading 2915 and is therefore governed primarily by GRI 6. The protestant argues that subheading 2915.60, HTSUSA, which provides for "butyric acids, valeric acids, their salts and esters," specifically describes 2-methylbutyric acid. EN 29.15 (V) indicates that the term "butyric acids" is limited to n-butyric acid (CAS # 107-92-6) and isobutyric acid (CAS # 79-31-2). These are each four-carbon compounds which are separate and distinct from 2-methylbutanoic acid, a five-carbon compound. Similarly, EN 29.15 (VI) states that "valeric acids" includes only n-valeric acid (CAS # 109-52-4) and isovaleric acid (CAS # 503-74-2). n-Valeric acid, also known as pentanoic acid, is a five-carbon straight chain with a terminal carboxyl group, which differs from 2-methylbutanoic acid, a branched compound. Isovaleric acid is similar to the instant merchandise in that they are both branched, five-carbon carboxylic acids, however the compounds differ materially in the location of the methyl substituent. The methyl group of 2-methylbutanoic acid is attached to the "2" (alpha) carbon, while the methyl group of isovaleric acid is bound to the "3" (beta) carbon. Thus, the merchandise cannot be considered a valeric acid. This is consistent with Customs position in HQ 952287, dated October 7, 1992, which held that 2-methylbutanoic acid ethyl ester was not an ester of valeric acid. Because this compound is neither butyric acid nor valeric acid, nor a salt or ester of either, it is not classififed in subheading 2915.60, HTSUSA.

The Port Director liquidated this merchandise under subheading 2915.90.1050, HTSUSA, which provides for fatty acids of animal or vegetable origin other than lauric acid. Within heading 2915, subheading 2915.90, the residual provision, is the most appropriate six-digit subheading as the merchandise is not described by any of the more specific provisions. Subheading 2915.90, HTSUSA, is subdivided into two categories: "acids" and "other." This compound is properly described as an acid because it has an intact carboxyl group, that is, it can still act as a proton donor, unlike an ester or salt. The "acids" provision is further subdivided into fatty acids and non-fatty acids. A fatty acid is "an organic compound consisting of a hydrocarbon chain and a terminal carboxyl group...chain length ranges from one hydrogen atom (methanoic, or formic, acid, HCOOH) to nearly 30 carbon atoms...long chain fatty acids generally have an even number of carbon atoms; unbranched chains predominate over branched chains." A Dictionary of Chemistry, 3rd Ed., Oxford Paperbacks, Oxford University Press. 2-Methylbutanoic acid is described by this definition and is a fatty acid. It is not lauric acid (C12H12O2), and is therefore properly classified in subheading 2915.90.1050, HTSUSA.


1. The protest is timely with regard to the entries liquidated on December 19, and 29, 1997, but not for the entry liquidated July 18, 1997. Therefore, that portion of this protest is to be denied as being untimely filed.

2. 2-Methylbutyric acid is correctly classified under subheading 2915.90.1050, HTSUSA. The protest should be denied.

In accordance with section 3A(11)(b) of Customs Directive 099 3550-065, dated August 4, 1993, Subject: Revised Protest Directive, this decision should be mailed by your office together with the Customs Form 19, Notice of Action, to the Protestant no later than 60 days from the date of this letter. Any reliquidation of the entry in accordance with this decision must be accomplished prior to the mailing of the decision. Sixty days from the date of this decision, 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
Commercial Rulings Division

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