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HQ 965595

August 5, 2002

CLA-2 RR:CR:TE 965595 ttd


TARIFF NO: 4820.10.2050

Cheryl Santos/Customs Compliance Specialist Christopher O'Malley/Manager of Customs Compliance CVS/Pharmacy
One CVS Drive
Woonsocket, RI 02895

RE: Classification of a Textile Zippered 3-Ring Binder With a Spiral Paper Notebook, Tabbed Plastic Dividers and Coated-Paper Folders With Pockets

Dear Ms. Santos and Mr. O'Malley:

This is in response to your letter, dated March 28, 2002, requesting the classification of a zippered binder imported with a wire bound notebook, tab index dividers, and pocket folders 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 our reply. A sample was submitted for review.


The merchandise under consideration is described as a 1-1/2 inch textile zippered binder, identified as item number 185869. The item consists of a jacket or case that is zippered on 3 sides. The item measures approximately 13-1/2 inches in height by 12-1/2 inches in width by 2 inches in depth (in the closed position), and has a metal 3-ring binder mechanism permanently affixed inside. The rings measure approximately 1-1/2 inch in diameter. The interior left side features a zippered, mesh, flat pocket. The exterior of the folder is made of polyester fabric, while the interior is of plastic. The metal binder rings hold a spiral paper notebook, five tabbed plastic dividers and two coated-paper folders with interior pockets.


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.

For the merchandise at issue, consideration must be given to each component of the textile zippered binder. The set consists of a textile and plastic folder with a metal 3-ring binder which, if not classifiable under heading 4202, is classifiable under the heading which provides for other made-up textile articles (heading 6307, HTSUSA); a spiral notebook which is classifiable under the heading which describes notebooks, bound, of paper or paperboard (heading 4820, HTSUSA); paper folders which are classifiable under the heading which describes folders of paper paperboard (heading 4820, HTSUSA); and also plastic dividers which are classifiable as office and school supplies, of plastics (heading, 3926, HTSUSA).

GRI 3 provides, in pertinent part:

When by application of Rule 2(b) or for any other reason, goods are, prima facie, classifiable under two or more headings, classification 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 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.

When interpreting and implementing the HTSUSA, the Explanatory Notes (“EN”) to the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System may be utilized. The ENs, while neither legally binding nor dispositive, provide a guiding commentary on the scope of each heading, and are generally indicative of the proper interpretation of the HTSUSA. See, T.D. 8990, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (Aug. 23, 1989). The guidance of the ENs is helpful in the instant analysis.

EN (V) to GRI 3(a), states in pertinent part that “when two or more headings each refer . . . 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 than the others. In such cases, the classification shall be determined by Rule 3(b) or 3(c).” In this regard, EN (X) to Rule 3(b), p.5, states in pertinent part that “‘goods put up in sets for retail sale’ shall be taken to mean goods which: (a) consist of at least two different articles which are, prima facie, classifiable in different headings. . . .; (b) consist of products or articles put up together to meet a particular need to carry out a specific activity; and (c) are put up in a manner suitable for sale directly to users without repacking. . . .”

The merchandise under consideration consists of components put up together to organize papers and enhance the activity of note taking. Furthermore, the components are used in conjunction with one another and are suitable for use as packaged. Therefore, for classification purposes the components form a “set” whose intended purpose is to provide a convenient and organized method by which to take notes. As a result, our analysis continues pursuant to GRI 3(b).

As previously noted, GRI 3(b) states, in pertinent part, that goods put up in sets are to be “classified as if they consisted of the material or component which gives them their essential character, insofar as this criterion is applicable.”

As to which component imparts the essential character to the textile zippered binder set, EN (VIII) to Rule 3(b), p. 4, gives guidance, stating that “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.” Of the four components which constitute the textile zippered binder, it appears that the plastic dividers have less significance in the overall purpose and function of the set than the fabric binder, folders and spiral notebook and therefore, do not equally merit consideration in determining the essential character of the kit.

The considerations as to value, construction and diversification of use, all may weigh in favor of a conclusion that the binder imparts the essential character. Based upon the information you provided Customs, the value breakdown for the components is as follows:
$2.89 binder $0.36 notebook $0.48 2 two pocket folders $0.25 5 tab index dividers

The value of the zippered binder is significantly greater than any other component in the 3-ring binder set. The nature of the binder, its bulk, weight and role in relation to the use of the goods are also significant.

Other than heading 6307, HTSUSA, the remaining headings under consideration are heading 4820, HTSUSA, and heading 4202, HTSUSA, which covers attache cases, brief cases and similar containers. Among the items covered by heading 4820, HTSUSA, are " notebooks 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, 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 zippered binder contains a notebook, dividers and folders as well as space for the storage or organization of various, mostly stationery-related items. It appears to have characteristics common to the enumerated exemplars of both headings 4202 and 4820, HTSUSA. Whether the zippered binder under consideration is classifiable under heading 4202 or heading 4820, HTSUSA, rests on whether it has merely the character of a heading 4202 container, or whether its primary purpose is to organize, store, protect, and carry various items. Multiple Headquarters Ruling Letters (HQ) support the position that the subject zippered binder merely possesses the character of a container, and since it primarily serves to provide convenient and organized methods for taking notes, it is not similar to the containers named in heading 4202, HTSUSA.

In HQ 961366, dated April 28, 1999, Customs classified a binder (blue in color) with dimensions (12 inches by 11 inches by 2 inches), features (zippered closure, 3-ring binder, and mesh pocket) and contents (when imported with a writing pad measuring 8-1/2 inches by 11 inches) as a jacket or cover to enclose and protect papers and articles of stationary provided for under subheading 4820.10.2020, HTSUSA. See also HQ 959958, dated June 8, 1999, wherein Customs classified in subheading 4820.10.20, HTSUSA, a "Leather Writing Pad" (Style no. 53964) which measured 13-3/8 inches in height by 10-1/4 inches in width by 1-1/2 inches in depth and was zippered on three sides. Likewise, in HQ 956940, dated November 25, 1994, we classified in subheading 4820.10.2020, HTSUSA, two portfolios with dimensions (13-1/2 inches by 10 inches by 1 inch), features (zippered closure, pockets, slots, and pen holder), and contents (writing pad) similar to those of the subject zippered binder. Although those articles possessed some features that might be found to have the character of an attache case, it was noted that the exterior and interior pockets were essentially flat and suitable only for loose papers and 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.

In this case, the zippered binder has the mere character of a container, with perhaps more features than a simple jacket or cover. It does not, however, have the physical attributes Customs has found common to the containers of heading 4202, HTSUSA. While the subject item is designed to organize and store small and/or flat items in addition to a writing pad, it has a depth of only 2 inches and lacks significant carrying space for items not related to writing or stationery. These characteristics indicate that the subject zippered binder is not designed to carry additional items such as a newspaper, books, small umbrella and/or other objects normally carried in an attache case or briefcase. We find that the added features of the zippered binder serve to enhance its primary purpose, which is to provide a convenient and organized method by which to take notes in a variety of locations and circumstances. Accordingly, we find that the zippered binder merely has the character of a container and is not similar to the exemplars listed in heading 4202, HTSUSA.

Since heading 4820, HTSUSA, covers notebooks and other articles of stationery with jackets or covers, the zippered binder with spiral notebook, folders and dividers is a set which constitutes an article of stationery. The set's essential character is imparted by the component most dedicated to the taking of notes, i.e., the notebook. The merchandise is classified in subheading 4820.10.2050, HTSUSA.


The merchandise is classified in subheading 4820.10.2050, HTSUSA, the provision for "Registers diaries and similar articles: Diaries, notebooks and similar articles, Other." The general column one duty rate is 0.8 percent ad valorem.


Myles B. Harmon, Acting Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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