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HQ 965459

July 15, 2002

CLA-2 RR:CR:TE 965459 ttd


TARIFF NO: 4820.10.2020

Jim Ghedi
Ghedi International, Inc.
8002 Burleson Road
Austin, TX 78744

RE: Classification of Notepad Holders

Dear Mr. Ghedi:

This is in response to your letter, dated January 24, 2002, on behalf of your client, Norwood Promotional Products, Inc., regarding the classification of two styles of portfolios each with a writing pad under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA). Your letter, which was originally submitted to the Customs National Commodity Specialist Division in New York, was referred to this office for reply. Samples were submitted for review.


The articles under consideration are two styles of portfolios, each containing a writing pad. Both samples are described as flexible green notepad holders, identified as Sample 1 and Sample 2. Each unit contains a paper pad insert and pockets for business cards or other paper inserts. Both samples have similar dimensions of approximately 13 inches by 10 inches by 3/4 inch. Neither item has a closure mechanism.

Sample 1 has a black "binding" material covering the exterior of the fold. Sample 2 is partially molded to produce a decorative effect on one face of the exterior. We note that while both samples are described as being of PVC plastic, we have determined that the green outer layer of both samples consists of "compact plastic backed with textile fabric."


What is the proper classification of the subject merchandise?


Classification under the HTSUSA is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI). GRI 1 provides, in part, that classification decisions are to be “determined according 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 GRI may then be applied.

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System Explanatory Notes (EN) constitute 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. While neither legally binding nor dispositive of classification issues, the EN provide commentary on the scope of each heading of the HTSUSA and are generally indicative of the proper interpretation of the headings. See T.D. 89-80, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127-28 (Aug. 23, 1989).

The competing headings under consideration are heading 4820, HTSUSA, which covers memorandum pads and other articles of stationery and heading 4202, HTSUSA, which covers attache cases, brief cases and similar containers.

Among the items covered by heading 4820, HTSUSA, are " notebooks letter pads, memorandum pads, diaries and similar articles binders (looseleaf or other), folders, file covers and other articles of stationery, of paper or paperboard." The EN to heading 4820 indicate that the heading covers various articles of stationery including (in addition to the examples noted above) notebooks of all kinds, file covers, files (other than box files), and portfolios. The EN also suggest that the goods of the 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. Additionally, Note 1(h) to chapter 48, HTSUSA, states that "[t]his chapter does not cover: Articles of heading 4202 (for example, travel goods)."

Heading 4202, HTSUSA, provides for, among other goods, attache cases, briefcases, and similar containers. The exemplars named in heading 4202 have in common the purpose of organizing, storing, protecting, and carrying various items. However, EN (c) to heading 4202 indicates that the heading does not cover articles which, although they may have the character of containers, are not similar to those enumerated in the heading and includes the following items as examples: book covers, reading jackets, file-covers, document-jackets and blotting pads.

The subject notepad holders contain both a writing pad and areas for the storage or organization of various items, and therefore appear to have characteristics common to the enumerated exemplars of both headings 4202 and 4820, HTSUSA. Whether the notepad holders under consideration are classifiable under heading 4202 or heading 4820, HTSUSA, rests on whether they merely have the character of heading 4202 containers or whether their primary purpose is to organize, store, protect, and carry various items. Numerous Headquarters Rulings Letters (HQ) support the position that the subject notepad holders merely possess the character of a container and since they serve to provide convenient and organized methods for taking notes, they are not similar to the containers in heading 4202, HTSUSA.

In HQ 951076, dated March 18, 1992, Customs classified a "Presidential Writing Pad" as a memorandum pad covered by subheading 4820.10.2020, HTSUSA. The "Presidential Writing Pad" consisted of a leather folder containing an 8-1/2 inches by 11 inches writing pad which slipped into an interior slot, a pen holder and an additional pocket for loose papers. The article was considered to be a memorandum pad which was defined as "an article featuring a block of blank pages attached at one end to facilitate note taking." Stating that the design of the leather folder emphasized the distinctive functions of the article, we found that the role of the "Presidential Writing Pad" was to provide a convenient and organized method in which to take notes. See also HQ 955249, dated November 12, 1993. Moreover, in HQ 962030, dated May 13, 1999, we followed the reasoning set forth in HQ 951076 (cited above), and classified "padfolios" as memorandum pads covered by subheading 4820.10.2020, HTSUSA. Like the "Presidential Writing Pad," the "padfolios" consisted of a folder containing an 8-1/2 inches by 11 inches writing pad which slipped into an interior slot, a pen holder and an additional pocket for loose papers.

In HQ 956940, dated November 25, 1994, we classified in subheading 4820.10.2020, HTSUSA, two portfolios whose dimensions (13-1/2 inches by 10 inches by 1 inch), features (zippered closure, pockets, slots, and pen holder), and contents (writing pad measuring 8-1/2 inches by 11 inches) were essentially the same as those of the "padfolio." One portfolio possessed an outer surface of leather while the other possessed an outer surface of man-made vinyl coskin. Although those articles possessed some features that might be found to be in an attache case, it was noted that the exterior and interior pockets were essentially flat and suitable only for loose papers, organizational aids for note taking. We concluded that the items functioned primarily as organizational aids for note taking and that they retained the character of jackets and covers for the note pads. Since the items had the character of jackets and covers which are excluded by EN (c) from heading 4202, HTSUSA, they were classified under heading 4820, HTSUSA. See also HQ 961418, dated August 4, 1998 and HQ 960989, dated July 20, 1998.

In this case, the notepad holders may have the mere character of a container, with perhaps more features than a simple jacket cover or cover, however, they do not have the requisite physical attributes Customs has found common to the containers of heading 4202, HTSUSA. While both of the subject items are designed to organize and perhaps protect small and/or flat items in addition to a writing pad, each pad holder has a depth of only 3/4 inch and lacks significant carrying space and/or any carrying handles or straps. These characteristics indicate that the subject notepad holders are not designed to easily store, protect, and carry additional items such as newspaper, books, small umbrella and/or other objects normally carried in an attache case or briefcase. We find that the added features of the notepad holders serve to enhance their primary purpose, which is to provide a convenient ad organized method by which to take notes in a variety of locations and circumstances. Accordingly, we find that the notepad holders merely have the character of a container and are not similar to the exemplars listed in heading 4202, HTSUSA.

Since heading 4820, HTSUSA, covers letter pads, memorandum pads, and other articles of stationery with jackets or covers, the writing pad notepad holder, as a whole, constitute an article of stationery. When imported with a writing pad, each notepad holder is classified in subheading 4820.10.2020, HTSUSA.


When imported with a lined memorandum or writing pad, the notepad holders identified as sample number one and sample number two are classified in subheading 4820.10.2020, HTSUSA, the provision for "Registers diaries and similar articles: Diaries and similar articles, Memorandum pads, letter pads and similar articles." The general column one duty rate is .8 percent ad valorem.


Myles Harmon, Acting Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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