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HQ 961937

December 8, 1998

CLA-2 RR:TC:TE 961937 SS


TARIFF NOS.: 4421.90.4000

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

RE: Reconsideration of NY C84340; Wooden Folding Room Screens

Dear Ms. Connelly:

This is in response to your letter, dated May 4, 1998, on behalf of your client, FETCO International of Randolph, Massachusetts, requesting reconsideration of New York Ruling Letter (NY) C84340, dated March 11, 1998, regarding classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA) of wooden folding room screens styles 4160, 4161, 4162, 415500RS, 415600RS and 415700RS. The room screens are imported from China or Thailand. A physical sample was not provided with the request for reconsideration because of its size and weight. Information from the FETCO catalog was submitted to this office.


A copy of the page from the FETCO catalog shows styles 4160, 4161 and 4162 and describes them as follows:

"FOLDING ROOM SCREEN Our 5'9" tall folding three-panel wooden room screen decorates any setting with 15 favorite images. Holds 8x10 photographs or art prints. Choose cherry or black finish."

The Folding Room Screens consist of three wooden panels connected by metal hinges. Each panel incorporates five openings which may be used to display photographs, prints, or similar objects. Each opening consists of a piece of clear glass and a removable backing. The backing is removed to insert a photograph or print and is then reattached to the room screen to hold the photograph or print in place. The Folding Room Screens measure approximately 70 inches in height and 35 inches in width when fully extended. The room screens can display a total of fifteen 8" x 10" photographs or prints.

A drawing was submitted with the original request for styles 415500RS, 415600RS and 415700RS which are referred to as "Floating Room Screens". The Floating Room Screens are constructed similar to the Folding Room Screens except that the backing consists of textured glass.

In NY C84340, the room screens were classified under 4421.90.4000, HTSUSA, as wood screens. The ruling determined that the merchandise was constructed, sold, bought and known as screens. The essential character of the article was determined to be that of a screen which decorates a room setting; the frame-like openings were merely features of the screen. You disagree with this determination. In your opinion, the subject merchandise is designed for and used to display photographs and would be classified under 4414.00.0000, HTSUSA, as wooden frames for photographs or similar objects.


Whether the subject room screens are properly classifiable under 4421.90.4000, HTSUSA, which provides for wooden screens, or under 4414.00.0000, HTSUSA which provides for wooden frames?


Classification of goods under the HTSUSA is governed by the General Rules of Interpretation ("GRIs"). GRI 1 provides that 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 otherwise require, according to remaining GRIs taken in order. The provisions under consideration are as follows:

"4421.90.4000 Other articles of wood; Other; Wood blinds, shutters, screens and shades, all the foregoing with or without their hardware: Other."

"4414.00.0000 Wooden Frames for paintings, photographs, mirror or similar objects"

There are no section notes for Section IX and the chapter notes for Chapter 44 do not provide any guidance on the classification of the merchandise. The Explanatory Notes to the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System ("EN") constitute the official interpretation of the scope and content of the nomenclature at the international level. Unfortunately, the ENs in this case do not assist in determining the proper classification. Thus, the question boils down to whether the merchandise is a wood screen or a wood frame. It is Customs position that the article is a wood screen.

We agree that HTSUSA 4414.00.0000 is an eo nomine provision covering wooden frames for paintings, photographs, mirrors or similar objects. You contend that the room screen frames are designed for and used to display photographs and similar articles and thus should be considered wooden frames for tariff purposes. However, the fact that this frame-like article is a room screen cannot be ignored. Mere observation of the article reveals that it is a room screen that features openings for photographs or similar articles. It is designed to be free-standing like a room screen, it is the approximate size of typical room screens and folds in sections like a room screen. It simply looks and feels like a room screen. The openings for photographs or prints are merely features of the room screen. Openings for photographs which are incorporated into a room screen do not convert a room screen to a photo frame.

The Explanatory Note to Heading 4421, HTSUS, states that the heading covers all articles of wood other than those specified or included in preceding headings. You assert that the room screens cannot be classified in Heading 4421, HTSUS, because the room screens are provided for in a more specific section of Chapter 44, namely Heading 4414, HTSUS, the provision for wooden frames. We disagree. The wooden frame provision is not more specific. The merchandise is a wood screen, not a wooden frame. Accordingly, it cannot be classified under the heading for wooden frames. Thus, the merchandise is not precluded from classification under Heading 4421, HTSUS. Having determined that Heading 4421, HTSUS, is applicable, a review of the subheadings reveals that subheading 4421.90.4000, HTSUSA, specifically provides for wood screens. Accordingly, classification under subheading 4421. 90.4000, HTSUSA, is proper.

You attempt to distinguish several rulings on the grounds that the decorative screens involved were used primarily to divide or conceal an area of a room while your screens are used primarily to display photographs. New York Ruling Letter (NY) 857911, dated December 7, 1990, describes the "decorative wood screen" at issue as follows:

"The ruling was requested on a floor standing decorative screen. The screen is composed of three panels which are hinged together. Each panel measures 18 inches wide by 80 inches high. The screen is made of wood and decoratively covered with leather."

Although the ruling mentioned that the screens function was to conceal, shade or divide an area, it also mentioned that they were highly decorative. The screens were classified under 4421.90.4000, HTSUSA. Notably, the screens were the same shape and approximate size as the screens at issue. Furthermore, the screens featured leather to make them more decorative just as the screens in the present case feature openings for photos to make them more decorative. NY 855306, dated August 22, 1990, also involved screens of similar shape and size. The screens were composed of four wooden panels measuring 20" wide x 72" high. Despite the lack of decoration or features, the screens were also classified under 4421.90.4000, HTSUSA. In NY 886597, dated June 15, 1993, Customs classified Coromandel screens which consisted of four or six lacquered and painted wood panels measuring 72" wide x 84" high under 4421.90.4000, HTSUSA. It was noted that screens typically have a "framed construction". Applying the rationale of these cases to the present case, the decorative features of the screen, namely the openings for photographs or prints, do not change the classification of the screen. It is Customs' position that the openings merely serve to enhance the decorative nature of the screens. The screens are still wood screens classifiable under 4421.90.4000, HTSUSA.

Headquarters is in agreement with the National Commodity Specialist that the screens are constructed, bought, and known as screens. Accordingly, an essential character analysis is not applicable. You contend that "the essential character of the screen is imparted by the frame openings". Although we agree that the frame-like openings are a unique feature of the screen, they do not confer essential character to an article that has already been determined to be a screen.

You contend that the screen is primarily sold and purchased to display photographs. This contention completely ignores the shape, size and nature of the article. The purchaser of this article wants something more than several picture frames or a big picture frame; he wants the shape, size and free-standing nature of a room screen. While we agree that a consumer may set the screen against a wall or in a corner, we disagree with your statement that it would not be purchased to divide or conceal an area. Furthermore, its chief use is not simply to display photographs, it is to decorate a room. You contend that these screens are distinguishable from the byobu types of screens historically classified under Heading 4421, HTSUS, on the grounds that the byobu screens do not serve any other purpose than to decorate or divide off an area of room. This screen also decorates and divides; it decorates with photographs or prints rather than rice paper or paintings. In fact, the screen seems to mimic the traditional Japanese shoji screen by simply replacing the delicate rice paper panels with openings for photos. The fact that the screens are used as a type of photo frame is not sufficient to establish that the articles are not screens, when other factors, such as their shape, construction, and resemblance to the well-known oriental folding screen proclaim that they are screens properly classifiable under Heading 4421, HTSUS.

In Headquarters Ruling Letter (HQ) 086047, dated March 1, 1990, and HQ 087170, dated September 14, 1990, Customs dealt with hand painted Japanese folding screens. The screens were the folding "byobu" type comprised of wooden frames covered with rice paper and held together with paper hinges. Sumi ink and water soluble colors were used to paint the screens. The screens were 60 to 80 years old. The sizes of the screens ranged from 60" x 60" to 70 x 146". The screens were initially classified under Heading 4421, HTSUS. However, supplemental information was provided and the ruling was reconsidered. The Importer showed that he imported special screen hanging hardware and supplies with every screen so that the screens could be hung on a wall; no two screens were alike; the screens were not signed by the artist because a master painter of a school would not sign a screen in deference to the leader of school; the screens were of high value; and one screen was in the permanent collection of an Asian Art Museum. Customs felt the screens were unique works of art designed to be used as wall hangings rather than screens and revoked the prior ruling. The screens were reclassified under subheading 9701.10.0000, HTSUSA, which provides for paintings, pastels, drawings, executed entirely by hand. Applying this rational to the present case, it is clear that there is a high threshold for removing a wood screen from the subheading specifically covering wood screens. Furthermore, until that high threshold is met, it does not matter that a wood screen is purchased for some decorative quality such as a painting or openings for photos; it does not deprive the screen of its status as a wood screen. The present screen is appropriately classified under subheading 4421.90.4000, HTSUSA.

Customs has ruled on virtually the same screens. In NY C82177, dated December 16, 1997, Customs classified the "Sona Floor Screen Frame" under 4421.90.4000, HTSUSA. The merchandise at issue was a floor standing wood screen measuring 35 inches wide by 69 inches high comprised of three panels each containing five 8 by 10 size picture frames in a row from top to bottom. The picture frames were described as unique and prominent features of the screen. The importer also suggested Heading 4414, HTSUSA. Customs responded that the screen was not just a large multiple picture frame; it was a completely different article, namely, a floor standing screen that incorporated photo frames in its design. Additionally, in NY C85674, dated April 16, 1998, a "photo gallery floor screen" was classified under 4421.90.4000, HTSUSA. It was described as a decorative, floor-standing article consisting of three upright wooden panels attached to each other with hinges. Each panel was approximately 11 1/2 inches wide by 69 inches high, and consisted of a wood framework surrounding a vertical array of five identical rectangular openings intended to accommodate photographs for display. Each opening was equipped with a pane of glass, paper mat and removable fiberboard back. Applying these cases to the present case, which concerns a virtually identical screen, the proper classification is under 4421.90.4000, HTSUSA.

You contend that the screens are frames because most of the screens are sold to the stationary/frame departments of stores and they are advertised with frames. In the first unidentified advertisement, the screen is under a heading for "floor screens" and is designated as a "three panel floor screen". The photo frames in the advertisement, however, are referred to specifically as "frames" in the descriptions. It is also worthy to note that the floor screen costs approximately ten times as much as the most expensive frame advertised. Filene's advertisement calls the screen a "photo screen". The other frames in the advertisement are specifically called "frames" while there is no mention of the term "frame" in the screen portion of the ad. In this lay out the screen costs approximately twenty times as much as the most expensive frame. The March Macy's advertisement calls the screen "Fetco tri-panel floor screen" and states that the "screen holds fifteen 8x10 photos". The other photo frames in the ad are specifically referred to as "wood frames", "glass frames", etc.. In Macy's April advertisement the screen is located under a heading for "floor screens" and is called a "three panel wood floor screen". Other frames in the ad, even the "spinner", are specifically called "frames". Kohl's March ad calls it a "photo screen" and states the "tri-panel screen holds several 8x10 photos". Kohl's April advertisement calls it simply a "screen" and describes it as a "contemporary and unique way to show your treasured photos". Although most of the ads do state the screen holds photographs, none label it a "frame" and all designate it a "screen". Accordingly, the advertisements do support the finding that the screens are constructed, sold, bought and known as screens.


The classification of the wood room screens under 4421.90.4000, HTSUSA, was correct.

The screens are classifiable in subheading 4421.90.4000, HTSUSA, which provides for Other articles of wood: Other: Wood blinds, shutters, screens and shades, all the foregoing with or without their hardware: Other. The duty rate is 5.7 ad valorem.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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