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HQ 963879

June 19, 2001

CLA-2 RR:CR:TE 963879 JFS


TARIFF NO.: 4820.10.20, HTSUSA

Mr. Thomas F. Waterman
Port Director
135 High Street
Room 350 Hartford, CT 06103

RE: Internal Advice Request No. 1/00; Classification of Diary/Clutch; Exclusionary note 1(h) to Chapter 48; Composite Good.

Dear Mr. Waterman:

This letter is in reply to your memorandum, dated January 4, 2000, regarding Request for Internal Advice No. 1/00, dated October 27, 1999, filed by Meeks & Sheppard, on behalf of Buxton Company, concerning the classification of a diary/clutch composite good.


The item under consideration measures approximately 7-¼ inches by 5-½ inches by 1-½ inches. It is comprised of a leather case with a six-ring binder permanently affixed at the spine. It is secured by a snap closure. The binder secures paper inserts that form a daily planning system. The planning system has tabs and inserts for: (1) a diary that consists of yearly calendars for 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002, a large foldout yearly calendar, a monthly planner, a weekly planner, and a “diary” or daily planner. Each of the calendars is appropriately marked for easy reference and for taking notes and making appointments; (2) taking notes on meetings; (3) projects; (4) expenses; (5) goals; and (6) a phone book. There is a lined pad with a firm paperboard backing that can be attached to the binder or that can be inserted into one of the pockets on the inside of the item.

The interior left side of the item has one full-length pocket that opens towards the spine of the case. On top of this pocket, is a pocket that is sleeve-like and open on the right. Over top of this pocket, are three slots for holding business or credit cards.

The interior right side of the item has a zippered case affixed to it. The case is 4 ½ inches by 7 ½ inches by ½ inch when closed. It has a zippered closure that extends along three sides. When opened, gussets expand the case, allowing for easy access to the compartments inside. The inside is divided into two gusseted main compartments by a zippered pouch that runs the length of the center of the item. This zippered compartment is gusseted on one side which allows it to hold coins and other small, narrow items. Each of the main compartments has a six-slot compartment for credit cards or similar objects. Each of the main compartments also has a full-length pocket. There is a loop for holding a pen affixed to the wall of the case.


Is the diary/clutch classified as a handbag under heading 4202 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA), or as a diary under heading 4820 of the HTSUSA?


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.

Among other goods, heading 4202, HTSUSA, provides for handbags, traveling bags, and similar containers. Subheading 4202.21, HTSUSA, provides for handbags with an outer surface of leather. In Headquarters Ruling Letter (HQ) 961942, dated October 26, 1999, Customs classified an “ensemble clutch” “that has a three-sided zippered compartment with a double gusseted full width pocket that creates an inner space suitable for carrying 3-dimensional objects.” Customs classified the clutch in subheading 4202.21.6000, HTSUSA, as a handbag with an outer surface of leather. The gusseted case attached to the right interior side of the planner, is similar to the clutch described in HQ 961492. If it were classified separately, it would be classified in subheading 4202.21.60, HTSUSA, as a handbag with an outer surface of leather.

Customs has classified day planners or organizers such as the one now under consideration as diaries under heading 4820, HTSUSA. See HQ 955516, dated April 8, 1994. Heading 4820, HTSUSA, provides in part for diaries, notebooks, memorandum pads and other articles of stationery, of paper or paperboard. Because the article under consideration possesses characteristics of goods classified under heading 4202, HTSUSA, and goods classified under heading 4820, HTSUSA, we must decide under which heading the article should be classified.

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. Legal note 1(h) to Chapter 48 provides that: “This chapter does not cover articles of heading 4202 (for example, travel goods).” Herein lies the conflict within this case. If GRI 1 is strictly construed, and chapter note 1(h) is applied prior to application of the remaining GRI, then the article cannot be classified under heading 4820, HTSUSA. This would be so, regardless of what features of the article impart the essential character.

In Avenues in Leather, Inc. v. United States, 11 F. Supp. 2d 719 (1998), the Court of International Trade considered the proper classification of folios that were zippered on three sides, had gusseted compartments, and contained a three ring binder down the spine. The folios were imported with a paper pad inserted in one of the pockets. The competing subheadings under the HTSUSA were subheading 4202.11.00, and subheading 4820.10.20, HTSUSA. Subheading 4202.11.00 provides for:

Trunks, suitcases, vanity cases, attache cases, briefcases, school satchels and similar containers: With outer surface of leather, of composition leather, or of patent leather.

Subheading 4820.10.20 provides for:

Registers, account books, notebooks, order books, receipt books, letter pads and similar articles: Diaries, notebooks and address books bound; memorandum pads, letter pads and similar articles.

The CIT conducted an analysis of the articles in accordance with GRI 1 and concluded that “given the articles’ similarity to the briefcase and attache cases exemplars in subheading 4202.11.00, HTSUSA, Customs’ classification [under heading 4202, HTSUSA,] was correct.” Id. at 724. Additionally the Court found that the articles “are not diaries or similar to diaries within the common understanding of that term. However, the CIT stated that even if the provisions in Chapter 48 described the articles, the merchandise would be excluded from classification in that Chapter. The Court applied note 1(g) (now note 1(h)) to Chapter 48, which provides that the chapter does not cover articles of heading 4202. The Court, strictly applying the provisions of GRI 1, concluded that “items that can be classified under Heading 4202 are specifically excluded from classification under all of Chapter 48. . . .” The CIT further stated that “the exclusionary note applies and precludes classification within Chapter 48 without the necessity of resorting to further GRIs.” Id, at 726.

The CIT, by stating that exclusionary note 1(g) to Chapter 48 prevented resolution pursuant to the remaining GRI, failed to consider the decision of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Sharp Microelectronics Tech., In. v. United States, 122 F.3d 1446 (Fed. Cir. 1997). In Sharp, the CAFC was called upon to decide whether it is appropriate, when there is an exclusionary note similar to note 1(h) to Chapter 48, to conduct analysis by application of the remaining GRI. In finding for Appellant Sharp on this limited issue, the CAFC stated:

The Court of International Trade in essence used Note 1(m) as a “tie-breaker” in concluding that subheading 9013.8060 is more specific than the parts provision in subheading 8473.30.40. Sharp argues that such use of Note 1(m) means that whenever an article could fit under Chapter 90 or Chapter 84, Chapter 90 would prevail, even if the heading or subheading under Chapter 90 also included an article that is more specifically provided for in Chapter 84, and the particular article in dispute unquestionably is more specifically provided for under Chapter 84.

The CAFC rejected a strict application of the exclusionary note and concluded by stating that “[w]e prefer the complementary role which we assign to Note 1(m) in the setting of this case.”

The CAFC’s treatment of exclusionary notes in Sharp was raised on appeal by Avenues in Leather, Inc. They argued to the CAFC that the CIT committed reversible error when it used Note 1(g) to Chapter 48 to preclude classification of the folios in heading 4820, HTSUSA, in violation of the CAFC’s decision in Sharp. Thus, the CAFC was faced with deciding whether its prior ruling in Sharp, that note 1(m) to section XVI is complementary as opposed to mandatory, applies, as well, to note 1 (g) to Chapter 48. The CAFC paraphrased its decision Sharp, and applied it to exclusionary note 1(g), stating that “provisions such as Note 1(g) are simply interpretive tools that ‘complement the rule of relative specificity’ rather than obviate substantive analysis.” The CAFC then found that the reliance by the CIT on Note 1(g) was dicta, and therefore the CIT did not contradict the CAFC’s decision in Sharp. Avenues in Leather, 178 F.3d at 1246.

Accordingly, pursuant to the CAFC’s decisions in Sharp and Avenues in Leather, note 1(h) to Chapter 48 does not preclude application of the remaining GRI and consequently, classification of the article in heading 4820, HTSUSA, can be considered.

GRI 3 is utilized when, by application of GRI 2(b), a good consists of materials or components which are prima facie classifiable under two or more headings. In which case, classification of the goods shall be effected as follows:

(a) 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.

(b) Mixtures, composite goods consisting of different materials or made up of different components, and goods put up in sets for retail sale, which cannot be classified by reference to 3(a), shall be classified as if they consisted of the material or component which gives them their essential character, insofar as this criterion is applicable.

(c) When goods cannot be classified by reference to 3(a) or 3(b), they shall be classified under the heading which occurs last in numerical order among those which equally merit consideration.

Headings 4202 and 4820, HTSUSA, are equally specific in relation to one another. Each heading encompasses a limited class of goods. Moreover, these headings describe only a portion of the physical characteristics incorporated into the article under consideration. Thus, we cannot resolve the classification of these items on the basis of GRI 3(a).

In their request for internal advice, the Buxton Company argues that the imported articled is not prima facie classifiable in heading 4202, HTSUSA, because it is “more than” any of the articles enumerated in heading 4202, HTSUSA. The CAFC has explained the “more than” doctrine as follows: “when goods constitute more than a particular article because they possess additional significant features or perform additional nonsubordinate functions, they are not classifiable as that article.” JVC v. Company of America v. United States, 234 F.3d 1348, 1353 (Fed. Cir. 2000). This argument is consistent with the decision of the CAFC in Avenues in Leather, which applied the “more than” doctrine. The CAFC stated that “[t]hese folios are plainly far more than simply diaries or address books, and thus cannot properly be classified in heading 4820.” Avenues in Leather, 178 F.3d at 1246. However, the “more than” doctrine can no longer be applied when determining which component of an article imparts the essential character. In JVC, the CAFC ruled that “the ‘more than’ doctrine, having been supplanted by the GRIs, does not apply to cases arising under the HTSUS.” JVC, at 1353. Therefore, we must determine which component of the article imparts the essential character as required by the terms of GRI 3(b).

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (EN), represent the official interpretation of the Harmonized System at the international level (for the 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 EN, although not dispositive or legally binding, provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the HTSUSA, and are generally indicative of the proper interpretation of these headings.

According to the Explanatory Notes
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.

The EN’s to heading 4820 state, in pertinent part, that:

This heading covers various articles of stationery, other than correspondence goods of heading 4817 and the goods referred to in Note 9 to this Chapter. It includes:

(1) Registers, account books, note books of all kinds, order books, receipt books, copy books, diaries, letter pads, memorandum pads, engagement books, address books and books, pads, etc. for entering telephone numbers.

(3) Binders designed for holding loose sheets, magazines, or the like (e.g. clip binders, spring binders, screw binders, ring binders), and folders, file covers, (other than box files) and portfolios.

(8) Book covers (binding covers and dust covers), whether or not printed with characters (title, etc.) Or illustrations.

The goods of this 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.

The article under consideration, with its detailed and extensive inserts, contains many of the features of the items listed in the EN. The “daily planner” functions as an engagement book and diary. The “communication” insert is similar to a note pad or memorandum pad. The “projects” insert is similar to note books. The “expenses” insert is similar to account books. The “goals” insert is similar to a note book and an engagement book. The alphabetized inserts for telephone numbers is a telephone book. Additionally, the item comes with a note pad that is clearly covered by the EN. Further, the six-ring binder designed for holding the inserts as well as the note pad, meets the description of “[b]inders designed for holding loose sheets . . . (e.g., . . . ring binders).” Finally, like the article under consideration, goods classifiable within the heading may be bound with leather and have reinforcements or fittings of metal or plastics.

In HQ 955636, dated April 6, 1994, Customs addressed the scope of subheading 4820.10.2010, HTSUSA, which provides for bound diaries and address books:

We think it is imperative to recognize that there are many forms of "diaries." Many are similar to the instant articles. Others, may be bound with expensive materials such as leather and may contain additional components such as pens, pencils, calculators, business card holders and assorted inserts that are used either for providing information or as a means of recording specific types of information (i.e., sections for fax numbers, car maintenance information, person finance data, etc. ... ). As the court in Brooks Bros. noted, citing Hancock Gross, Inc. v. United States, 64 Cust. Ct. 97, C.D. 3965 (1970), "The primary design and function of an article controls its classification.” Hence, the determinative criteria as to whether these types of articles are deemed "diaries" for classification purposes is whether they are primarily designed for use as, or primarily function as, articles for the receipt of daily notations, events and appointments.

Emphasis added. Furthermore, in HQ 955516, dated April 8, 1994, Customs observed:

The next issue is whether ring binders make a diary "bound" so as to warrant classification within subheading 4820.10.2010, HTSUS. This office has consistently held that they do. See HRL 089960 (2/10/92; 952691 (1/11/93); and 953172 (3/19/93). This position is supported by the EN to heading 4820, HTSUS, which state that "goods of this 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." It is clear that metal binders were contemplated to fit within this heading's definition of bound articles. We do not agree with protestant's argument that merely because a metal loose leaf ring binder was not expressly cited as an exemplar of a "bound" article in the EN to heading 4820, that it is precluded from classification as such.

The subject merchandise is similar to articles that have been classified by virtue of GRI 3 as goods of heading 4820. See HQ 956497, dated August 3, 1994; HQ 955655, dated July 14, 1994; HQ 955656, dated July 14, 1994. In these decisions, the merchandise exhibited features consistent with both a carrying case and an organizer.

Heading 4202, HTSUSA, provides in part for attache cases, briefcases and similar containers. In prior ruling letters, we have concluded that portfolio diaries, organizers, agendas or planners are not classifiable in heading 4202, HTSUSA. For example, in HQ 950325, dated December 27, 1991 (modified on other grounds in HQ 953143, dated January 11, 1993), we addressed the classification of an organizer consisting of a leather case enclosing a six-ring binder, with paper inserts for personal record keeping. In that decision, we stated:

We do not believe that heading 4202, HTSUS, describes a type of merchandise which would bring these goods within the "similar containers" of that heading. Although the "planner" may appear to be related to the containers of heading 4202, HTSUS, they are not similar in that they are not designed or intended for use in a similar manner, nor do they exhibit the requisite physical attributes that Customs has found common to goods of heading 4202, HTSUS.

Similarly, in HQ 950397, dated January 23, 1992, about the classification of a portfolio planner, we observed that:

Although the planner may appear to be related to the containers of heading 4202, HTSUS, they are not designed or intended for use in a similar manner, nor do they exhibit the requisite physical attributes that Customs has found common to goods of heading 4202, HTSUS.

Thus, we have determined that diaries, organizers, agendas or planners are generally excluded from heading 4202 as they are not used in a manner similar to, nor do they possess the physical characteristics of, articles of that heading.

The EN to heading 4202, HTSUSA, state that “the heading covers only the articles specifically named . . . and similar containers.” 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). In Totes, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) affirmed 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.”

The case component of the instant article has the same essential characteristics, i.e., to organize, store, protect and carry items, as the containers listed in heading, 4202, HTSUSA. However, that is the only component of the article that exhibits the essential characteristics required to be classified as a container under heading 4202, HTSUSA. Due to the large size of the diary/planner, it is unlikely that someone setting out to purchase a handbag like the one contained in this article will decide to purchase this article. However, the consumer who is looking to purchase a diary/planner, will view the added feature of the handbag as a bonus. It is unlikely that the clutch component will prevent the purchase of the article. Thus, while the handbag portion of the article may be a selling factor, it is not the main reason for purchasing the article. The physical characteristics that the article possesses are described by heading 4820, HTSUSA, are detailed in the EN, and have been relied upon in previous rulings to classify similar articles under heading 4820, HTSUSA. Moreover, the diary component of the article constitutes the bulk and weight of the item, is the most visible and, most importantly, is the primary reason the item would be purchased. Accordingly, the diary/planner component imparts the essential character to the imported article. The subject article is classified in heading 4820, HTSUSA.


The organizer, style JP21747P, is classified in subheading 4820.10.2010, HTSUSA, which provides for Registers, account books, notebooks, order books, receipt books, letter pads, memorandum pads, diaries and similar articles: Diaries, notebooks and address books, bound; memorandum pads, letter pads and similar articles: Diaries and address books. The general column one rate of duty is 1.2% ad valorem.


John Durant, Director

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