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HQ 964748

November 27, 2001


Catergory: Classification

Tariff No: 7326.20.00

Port Director
U.S. Customs Service
301 E. Ocean Blvd.
Long Beach, CA 90802

RE: Protests 2704-00-102226, 2704-00-102385, 2704-00-102662; key chains with plastic dolls attached.

Dear Port Director:

This is in reference to the request for further review of Protests 2704-00-102226, 2704-00-102385 and 2704-00-102662, filed on behalf of Simon Marketing against NY G87064, concerning the classification of split ring key chains with three different molded plastic dolls attached under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). Samples were submitted for our examination.


The subject articles each consist of a split ring to hold keys attached by a short chain to a plastic ornament in the form of a doll that portrays a character from the cartoon television series “Doug.” The split rings are made of steel wire. The articles are described as follows:

1) Young Man with Key Chain (Wrin. No. 01757-000). This article depicts a young man, in the likeness of the cartoon character “Doug,” holding a bunch of flowers behind his back. Upon pressing the small white button located in the center of the bunch of flowers, the cheeks of the character “blush.” The split metal key ring attached to the character’s head is approximately 11/4 inches in diameter and 3 inches in length from the furthest edge of the ring to its attachment. The character measures approximately 41/4 inches in height.

2) Green Man holding Flashlight with Key Chain (Wrin. No. 01757-009). The article depicts a light green man, in the likeness of the cartoon character “Skeeter,” holding a flashlight. The man is holding in his hand a gray flashlight with a glow-in-the-dark light. The split metal key ring attached to the character’s head is approximately 11/4 inches in diameter and 3 inches in length from the furthest edge of the ring to its attachment. The character measures approximately 4 inches in height.

3) Woman holding Valentine with Key Chain (Wrin. No. 01757-015). The article depicts a young woman, in the likeness of the cartoon character “Patti,” holding a red heart-shaped item. Her head and upper body can swivel left and right and her arms can be moved back and forth. The split metal key ring attached to the character’s head is approximately 1 1/4 inches in diameter and 3 inches in length from the furthest edge of the ring to its attachment. The character measures approximately 4 inches in height.

The articles are given away as a “prize” by a major fast food chain in a child’s meal box. At the time of liquidation, the articles were classified under subheading 7326.20.00, HTSUS. Protestant claims the articles should be classified under subheading 9502.10.00, HTSUS.


Whether the key chains should be classified under heading 9502 as dolls, or under heading 7326, HTSUS, as other articles of iron or steel.


Classification under the HTSUS is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRIs). The systematic detail of the Harmonized System is such that virtually all goods are classified as GRI 1, that is, to the terms of the headings and any relative Section or Chapter Notes. In the event that goods cannot be classified solely on the basis of GRI 1, and if the headings and legal notes do not otherwise require, the remaining GRIs may then be applied.

In understanding the language of the HTSUS, the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (ENs) may be utilized. ENs, though not dispositive or legally binding, provide commentary on the scope of each heading of the HTSUS, and are the official interpretation of the Harmonized System at the international level. Customs believes the ENs should always be consulted. See T.D. 89-80, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (August 23, 1989).

The HTSUS provisions under consideration are as follows:

7326 Other articles of iron or steel:
7326.20.00 Articles of iron or steel wire

Dolls representing only human beings and parts and accessories thereof:
9502.10 Dolls, whether or not dressed

The term “doll” is not defined in the HTSUS. However, EN 95.02 states, in pertinent part, as follows:

The heading includes not only dolls designed for the amusement of children, but also dolls for decorative purposes (e.g., boudoir dolls, mascot dolls), or for use in Punch and Judy or marionette shows, or those of a caricature type.

Dolls are usually made of rubber, plastics, textile materials, wax, ceramics, wood, paperboard, papier maché or combinations of these materials. They may be jointed and contain mechanism which permit limb, head or eye movements as well as reproductions of the human voice, etc. They may also be dressed.

GRI 1 provides that articles are to be classified by the terms of the headings and relative Section and Chapter Notes. For an article to be classified in a particular heading, the heading must describe the article, and not be excluded therefrom by any legal note.

The subject articles at issue here are novelty items consisting partly of a plastic doll described under heading 9502, and partly of a metal split ring key chain under heading 7326. As such, the items are not specifically provided for in any one heading. Thus, for tariff purposes, they constitute goods consisting of two or more substances or materials. Accordingly, they may not be classified solely on the basis of GRI 1. Further, GRI 2(a) is inapplicable because it applies to incomplete or unfinished articles, and the key chains are imported in a finished complete condition. According to GRI 2(b), the classification of goods consisting of more than one material or substance shall be according to the principles of GRI 3.

GRI 3(a) states that when, by application of rule 2(b) or for any other reason, goods are, prima facie, classifiable under two or more headings, 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. As the subject key chains are a composite good, we must apply rule 3(b), which provides that composite goods are to be classified according to the component that gives the good its essential character. We must determine whether the plastic figurines or the metal key ring imparts the essential character to these articles.

EN VIII to GRI 3(b) explains that "[t]he 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 the constituent material in relation to the use of the goods." Recent court decisions on the essential character for 3(b) purposes have looked primarily to the role of the constituent material in relation to the use of the goods. See Better Home Plastics Corp. v. U.S., 915 F. Supp. 1265 (CIT 1996), aff’d 119 F. 3d 969 (Fed. Cir. 1997); Mita Copystar America, Inc. v. U.S., 966 F.Supp. 1245 (CIT 1997), rehear’g denied, 994 F. Supp. 393 (1998); Vista Int’l Packing Co. v. U.S., 890 F. Supp. 1095 (CIT 1995). See also Pillowtex Corp. v. U.S., 893 F. Supp. 188 (CIT 1997), aff’d 171 F. 3d 1370 (CAFC 1999).

Moreover, we have consistently held that where a composite good contains both functional and non-functional components, the functional component gives the item its essential character. See HQ 087831, dated November 27, 1990 (holding that under a GRI 3(b) analysis, the essential character of a split key ring with a non-utilitarian vinyl attachment was the steel element); HQ 950636, dated September 16, 1992 (following HQ 087831 to conclude that the essential character of a key ring with a plastic ornament in which a logo or photo could be placed was the steel element, and revoking numerous rulings that did not follow that analysis); HQ 960118, dated January 28, 1999 (holding that the key ring imparted the essential character because of its function, as opposed to the voice synthesizer that merely played prerecorded sounds). See also HQ 959473, dated April 8, 1997 (holding that flashlight on key ring is not subordinate to the key ring, as a toy would be, for purposes of determining essential character). In HQ 087831, we stated, in pertinent part, that “the steel component is what makes up the utilitarian portion of the key ring, whereas the plastic component is present primarily for decorative purposes.” Hence, as a general rule, the steel component is the essential character, and this type of composite good is classified under heading 7326.

Protestant argues that these articles are classifiable according to GRI 1, claiming that the articles are dolls. We disagree. The article is a doll in part only. It is also in part a key chain. There is no specific provision for a good consisting of these two items attached together. Therefore, it cannot be classified according to GRI 1. Nor can it be classified according to GRI 3(a). Protestant argued that the “dolls” provision is an eo nomine provision, and thus the more specific provision, warranting classification as a doll according to GRI 3(a). This argument fails because specificity is not at issue when neither component of a composite good defines the good as a whole. GRI 3(a) instructs that “when two or more headings each describe part only of the materials . . . of a composite good, 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.” Emphasis added. Therefore, it is not relevant that the provision for dolls is more specific than the provision for other articles of iron and steel. Accordingly, we must apply GRI 3(b). According to the GRI 3(b) analysis enunciated above, the functional component imparts the essential character. The steel key chain performs the function of holding keys, whereas a doll is present for decorative purposes and to add bulk to the entity.

However, Customs recognizes that where the doll or toy component has a significant amount of manipulative play value, the doll or toy imparts the essential character of the subject goods. See e.g., NY B85825, dated May 30, 1997, in which the toy component of a “Mr. Potato Head Key Ring” gave the good its essential character because the toy comes complete with attachable features, e.g. eyes, noses and ears, that were stored in the back of its head and could be repeatedly rearranged. The other key chains classified in that ruling had similar levels of manipulative play, justifying their classification in Chapter 95.

On the contrary, the doll components at issue have but one amusing feature each. They lack the ability to be repeatedly rearranged and played with. The limited manipulative play value distinguishes them from the articles in the rulings upon which Protestant relies. Two of those rulings were inconsistent with the overwhelming line of rulings that properly apply the GRI 3(b) analysis for composite goods. They have been revoked or modified to reflect Customs long-standing position. See Customs Bulletin, Volume 35, Number 47, November 21, 2001.


Metal key chains with attached ornamental plastic dolls are classified in subheading 7326.20.00, HTSUS, as “other articles of iron or steel: articles of iron or steel wire: other.” The protest is DENIED.

In accordance with Section 3A(11)(b) of Customs Directive 099 3550-065, dated August 4, 1993, Subject: Revised Protest Directive, you are to mail this decision, together with the Customs Form 19, to the protestant no later than 60 days from the date of this letter. Any reliquidation of the entry or entries in accordance with the decision must be accomplished prior to mailing the decision.

Sixty days from the date of the decision, the Office of Regulations and Rulings will make the decision available to Customs personnel, and to the public on the Customs Home Page on the World Wide Web at www.customs.gov, by means of the Freedom of Information Act, and other methods of public distribution.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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