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HQ 963320

April 6, 2001

CLA-2:RR:CR:TE 963320 JFS


TARIFF NO.: 4202.92.9060

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

RE: Revocation of HQ 961827, dated April 5, 1999; Travel Document Holder.

Dear Ms. Connelly:

This letter is to inform you that Customs has reconsidered Headquarters Ruling Letter (HQ) 961827, issued to you on April 5, 1999, on behalf of the GEM Group, Inc., concerning the classification of a document holder under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA). After review of that ruling, it has been determined that the classification of the document holder in subheading 4202.92.4500, HTSUSA, was incorrect. For the reasons that follow, this ruling revokes HQ 961827.

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. 103-82, 107 Stat. 2057, 2186), notice of the proposed revocation of HQ 961827 was published on February 28, 2001, in the Customs Bulletin, Volume 35, Number 9. As explained in the notice, the period within which to submit comments on this proposal was until March 30, 2001. No comments were received in response to this notice.


HQ 961827 affirmed Port Ruling Letter (PD) C84151, issued February 26, 1998. In PD C84151, Customs classified the document holder at issue in heading 4202, HTSUSA, which covers, among other things, trunks, cases, bags and various containers. At the eight digit level, the document holder was classified under subheading 4202.92.4500, HTSUSA, as a “travel, sports and similar” bag.

The document holder that is the subject of this ruling was described in HQ 961827 as follows:

The article at issue, described in PD C84151 as a “travel document case,” and identified by style number 8400, is described in advertising/marketing literature as a “Document Holder.” The article consists of a jacket or case which is zippered on 3 sides and which measures approximately 10-1/4 inches in height by 5-1/4 inches in width by 1 inch in depth (in the closed position). The case is black in color and has an outer layer composed of a woven textile fabric that has been coated, covered, or laminated with a cellular plastic identified as polyurethane (PU). The plastic surface of the layer faces outward. There is a flat, open, full-height pocket on the article’s exterior front and a wrist strap attached to the zipper pull. Plastic foam and paperboard are sealed between the outer and inner surfaces of the article.

The interior surfaces of the case are also constructed of fabric-backed PU plastic. The case has a flat, open-top pocket which extends the full height and width of the case. Overlying that pocket, on the right interior side, are two flat, full-height pockets (one on top of the other). One of these pockets has a zippered closure while the other is sleeve-like and open on the left. The interior left side of the case features two flat, full-height pockets (again, one on top of the other and both stacked over the largest pocket noted above). Attached on top of these pockets are eight slots for business or credit cards and one flat pocket with a transparent plastic window for an identification card. There also is a pen holder attached to the spine of the case. The article is imported without contents.


Whether the travel document holder should be classified under subheading 4202.92.4500, HTSUSA, as a travel or similar bag?


Classification under the HTSUSA 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 Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, Explanatory Notes (EN), represent the official interpretation of the Harmonized System at the international level (for the 4 digit headings and the 6 digit subheadings) and facilitate classification under the HTSUSA by offering guidance in understanding the scope of the headings and GRI. The Explanatory Notes, although not dispositive or legally binding, provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the HTSUS, and are generally indicative of the proper interpretation of these headings. See T.D. 89-80, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (August 23, 1989).

Heading 4202, HTSUSA, provides:

Trunks, suitcases, vanity cases, attache cases, briefcases, school satchels, spectacle cases, binocular cases, camera cases, musical instrument cases, gun cases, holsters and similar containers; traveling bags, toiletry bags, knapsacks and backpacks, handbags, shopping bags, wallets, purses, map cases, cigarette cases, tobacco pouches, tool bags, sports bags, bottle cases, jewelry boxes, powder cases, cutlery cases and similar containers, of leather or of composition leather, of sheeting of plastics, of textile materials, of vulcanized fiber, or of paperboard, or wholly or mainly covered with such materials or with paper.

The plain language of heading 4202, HTSUSA, includes similar containers. Additionally, the EN to heading 4202, HTSUSA, state that the heading only covers the specifically named containers and similar containers. Applying the principle of statutory construction known as ejusdem generis, which means “of the same kind,” Customs finds that the instant travel document holder is covered by the term “similar containers” contained in the heading.

Under the rule of ejusdem generis, where an enumeration of specific things is followed by a general word or phrase, the general word or phrase is held to refer to things of the same kind as those specified. With respect to the broad reach of the residual provision for “similar containers” in heading 4202, HTSUSA, the courts have found that the rule of ejusdem generis requires that the imported merchandise possess the essential characteristics or purpose that unite the articles enumerated in order to be classified under the general term. Totes, Inc. v. United States, 18 Ct. Int’l Trade 919, 865 F. Supp. 867, 871 (1994), aff’d, 69 F.3d 495 (1995). The Court of International Trade’s determination that the “essential characteristics and purpose of heading 4202 exemplars are . . . to organize, store, protect and carry various items[,]” was affirmed by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Totes, Inc. v. United States, 69 F.3d 495, 498 (1995). Applying the rationale set forth in Totes, Customs finds that the instant travel document holder serves the purposes of organizing, storing, protecting and carrying the various documents that are typically carried during travel. Accordingly, the document holder is classifiable under heading 4202, HTSUSA, as a “similar container.”

With respect to classification at the subheading level, the article was originally classified under subheading 4202.92.4500, HTSUSA, as a travel or similar bag. The instant document holder has some of the same characteristics as a travel bag, e.g., organizing, storing, protecting, and carrying a person’s documents while traveling. However, application of Additional U.S. Note 1 to Chapter 42, HTSUSA, removes the document holder from the subheading for travel and similar bags. The Additional U.S. Notes become applicable at the eight-digit level or U.S. subdivision of the international subheadings. The provision for travel and similar bags is defined by Additional U.S. Note 1, Chapter 42, HTSUSA, as follows:

For the purposes of heading 4202, the expression “travel, sports and similar bags” means goods, other than those falling in subheadings 4202.11 through 4202.39, of a kind designed for carrying clothing and other personal effects during travel, including backpacks and shopping bags of this heading, but does not include binocular cases, camera cases, musical instrument cases, bottle cases and similar containers.

The Additional U.S. Note clarifies what characteristics will be considered to determine if a bag is a travel or similar bag. Significantly it lists travel and similar bags as bags that are designed for carrying clothing and personal effects. In order to hold and carry clothing and personal effects, a bag must have a generic or general carrying capacity. The exemplars, backpacks and shopping bags, in the Additional U.S. Note, both have a general or generic carrying capacity suitable for holding clothing and personal effects. Because the document holder does not have a generic carrying capacity, it does not meet the definition of travel and similar bags in Additional U.S. Note 1, Chapter 42, HTSUSA.

In HQ 954298, dated October 27, 1993, Customs considered three pouches. The first pouch was described as a travel pouch and measured 6” by 9”, had one main compartment with two pockets on the front, and attached to a person’s belt. The second pouch also attached to a person’s belt, but it was shaped to hold and carry a hand weapon or pistol. The third pouch was designed to hold and carry an ammunition clip and it too attached to a person’s belt.

The travel pouch was deemed to be classifiable as a travel, sports and similar bag because of its ability to carry personal items. However, the weapon and clip pouches were excluded from classification as travel, sports and similar bags because they were similar to those bags excluded by U.S. Additional Note 1 to Chapter 42.

HQ 954298 provides guidance as to the proper classification of the document holder that is the subject of this ruling. The pouch that had the generic or general carrying capacity was the only pouch that was classified as a travel, sports and similar bag. The two other pouches, which were somewhat specially fitted and had no generic carrying capacity, were excluded from the provision for travel, sports and similar bags. The document holder, due to (1) its lack of general or generic carrying capacity and (2) the fact that it is partially fitted, is more similar to the weapon and clip pouch, than it is to the travel pouch. See also HQ 954288, dated October 27, 1993.

Similarly, the document holder has characteristics and functions that are similar to other fitted or compartmentalized cases such as trucker’s wallets, camera tripod cases, palmtop pocket cases, and compact disk (CD) carrying cases.

In 1997, the HTSUSA was modified by adding subheading 4202.92.9050, HTSUS, “Cases designed to protect and transport compact disks (CD’s), CD ROM disks, CD players, cassette players and/or cassettes.” Like the document holder, these cases are somewhat fitted to carry, protect, and organize a general class of goods. They, like the document holder, do not have a generic or general carrying capacity. See, HQ 084931, dated August 14, 1989 (trucker’s wallet classified in subheading 4202.99.0000, HTSUSA, as “Other”); HQ 087113, dated July 26, 1990 (carrying case for scope, tripod and photo adapter eyepiece classified in subheading 4202.92.9000, HTSUSA, as “Other”); HQ 962341, dated November 23, 1998 (“Palmtop Pocket Case” classified in subheading 4202.92.9026, HTSUSA, as “Other”). HQ 960527, dated April 11, 2000 (CD-ROM storage folios classified in subheading 4202.92.9026, HTSUSA, as “Other”); HQ 960983, dated September 25, 1998 (diskette storage case
classified in subheading 4202.99.9000, HTSUSA, as “Other”); HQ 953175, dated February 17, 1993 (compact disc holder classified in subheading 4202.92.9020, HTSUSA, as “Other”).

There are several other potential subheadings under which the document holder could possibly be classified. The document holder serves to organize and protect flat items, and has many of the same characteristics as the attache cases and briefcases that are covered in subheadings 4202.11, HTSUSA, through 4202.19, HTSUSA. However, the document holder is not designed to store protect, and carry items such as newspapers, small umbrellas, and/or other objects normally carried in an attache case or briefcase. See, HQ 962757, dated June 21, 2000; and HQ 962030, dated May 13, 1999.

Additionally, the document holder is not classifiable as “articles of a kind normally carried in the pocket or in the handbag,” subheadings 4202.31, HTSUSA, through 4202.39, HTSUSA. Its large size, approximately 10-1/4 inches in height by 5-1/4 inches in width by 1 inch in depth (in the closed position), renders it too large to fit into a pocket or handbag. The wrist strap also indicates that the case is to be carried in the hand as opposed to in a purse or pocket.

For a similar ruling, see HQs 964788, 964789, and 964790 of this date.


Accordingly, for the reasons stated above, Customs finds that the document holder is classified under subheading 4202.92.9060, HTSUSA, as “Trunks, suitcases, vanity cases, . . .: Other: With outer surface of sheeting of plastic or of textile materials: Other: Other: Other: Other.” The duty, at the general one column rate, is 18.3 percent ad valorem.

Due to the changeable nature of the statistical annotation (the ninth and tenth digits of the classification) and the restraint (quota/visa) categories, the importer should contact the local Customs office prior to importing the merchandise to determine the current status of any import restraints or requirements.


HQ 961827, dated April 5, 1999, is hereby REVOKED. In accordance with 19 U.S.C. §1625(c), this ruling will become effective 60 days after its publication in the Customs Bulletin.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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