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HQ 562285

April 29, 2002

MAR-2 RR:CR:SM 562285 KSG


Teresa M. Polino, Esq.
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg, P.A.
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20004-3002

RE: Country of origin marking of imported underwear; 19 CFR 134.46; "see garment for country of origin"

Dear Ms. Polino:

This is in response to your letter of November 26, 2001, and your submission of April 19, 2002, on behalf of Sara Lee Knit Products, requesting a binding ruling on the country of origin marking of imported underwear packaged in polyurethane bags with "fliptop" openings at one end of each bag. You submitted a prototype sample for our examination. At the request of counsel, a telephone conference was held on this matter on April 4, 2002.


Sara Lee Knit Products manufactures underwear under the "Hanes" label in various foreign countries. Sara Lee Knit proposes to ship the underwear to an overseas distribution center where the underwear will be folded and packaged into multi-packs, e.g. three or six packs, inside polyurethane bags that have a fliptop opening at one end of the bags such as the samples submitted. Each garment would be individually marked with its country of origin. Sara Lee proposes to mark the bags "See Garment for Country of Origin."

The second scenario proposed is that the underwear would be imported into the U.S. then repacked into multi-pack poly bags with the fliptop opening for retail sale. Each garment would be marked with its country of origin and the poly bags would be marked "See Garment for Country of Origin."

In the sample submitted, the garments are folded around a piece of cardboard. There is a second piece of cardboard around the garments. On the second piece of cardboard, there is artwork identifying the brand, style, fabric, size chart, care instructions, guarantee and a U.S. address for the company. There is a label on the poly bag that reads "SEE GARMENT FOR COUNTRY OF ORIGIN" that is about one inch from the U.S. address.


Whether the proposed marking of the imported underwear satisfies the marking requirements set forth in 19 U.S.C. 1304.


Section 304 of the Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. 1304), as amended, provides that unless excepted, every article of foreign origin imported into the U.S. shall be marked in a conspicuous place as legibly, indelibly, and permanently as the nature of the article (or its container) will permit, in such a manner as to indicate to the ultimate purchaser in the U.S. the English name of the country of origin of the article. Part 134, Customs Regulations (19 CFR Part 134), implements the country of origin marking requirements of 19 U.S.C. 1304.

Section 134.46, Customs Regulations (19 CFR 134.46), as revised by T.D. 97-72, dated August 20, 1997, provides:

In any case in which the words “United States,” or “American,” the letters “U.S.A.,” any variation of such words or letters, or the name of any city or location in the United States, or the name of any foreign country or locality other than the country or locality in which the article was manufactured or produced appear on an imported article or its container, and those words, letters or names may mislead or deceive the ultimate purchaser as to the actual country of origin of the article, there shall appear legibly and permanently in close proximity to such words, letters or name, and in at least a comparable size, the name of the country of origin preceded by “Made in,” “Product of,” or other words of similar meaning.

Section 134.46 provides that its special marking requirements are triggered only when the non-origin reference may mislead or deceive the ultimate purchaser as to the actual country of origin of the article. Customs has ruled that in order to satisfy the “close proximity” requirement, the country of origin marking must appear on the same sides(s) or surface(s) in which the name of the locality other than the country of origin appears. See Headquarters Ruling Letter ("HRL") 708994, dated April 24, 1978.

In this instance, the special marking requirements of section 134.46 are applicable because the U.S. address could mislead or deceive the ultimate purchaser. Customs has previously ruled that a marking such as "See article for country of origin" satisfies the 134.46 requirements as long as the article is individually marked to indicate its origin. See HRL 559753, dated August 8, 1996. The location of the phrase "See garment for country of origin" on the prototype satisfies the close proximity requirement.

Counsel cited various rulings in which Customs allowed the importer to place a country of origin marking on the actual article and language reading "see article for country of origin" on the container because the container remained unsealed and the ultimate purchaser could inspect the imported article prior to purchase.

For instance, in HRL 561519, dated March 30, 2000, Customs held that the marking "Made in Canada or USA – See bottom of can for actual country of origin" on aerosol cans satisfied 19 U.S.C. 1304 because the ultimate purchaser would have the opportunity to see the actual country of origin marking prior to purchase as it would be visible on the bottom of the aerosol can.

In HRL 560776, dated May 4, 1999, Customs concluded that imported accessories for electronics that were marked with the actual country of origin could use a statement on the packaging which directs the ultimate purchaser to see the country of origin on the article, provided that the article was properly marked and the article was packaged in clear plastic so that the marking was visible to the ultimate purchaser prior to purchase. See also HRL 732099, dated November 3, 1989; HRL 734491, dated April 13, 1992; and HRL 734544, dated July 24, 1992.

The country of origin labels sewn inside the imported underwear are not visible to the consumer through the packaging prior to purchase. In all the cited Customs cases, the ultimate purchaser could easily view the actual country of origin of the imported article in the packaging, either because the packaging was clear or because it was unsealed, prior to purchase. Although in this case, the garments are packaged in a container with a "fliptop" opening, because the underwear is folded around a piece of cardboard, it is not packaged in such a way to make it easy or feasible to take apart the packaging in order to view the country of origin prior to purchase. Therefore, based on the facts presented, we find that the proposed marking is not acceptable under 19 U.S.C. 1304.


Based on the facts provided, we find that the proposed marking "See Garment for Country of Origin" is not acceptable under 19 U.S.C. 1304.

A copy of this ruling letter should be attached to the entry documents filed at the time this merchandise is entered. If the documents have been filed without a copy, this ruling should be brought to the attention of the Customs officer handling the transaction.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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