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HQ 967220

September 13, 2004

CLA-2 RR:CR:GC 967220 RSD


Tariff No. 4419.00.80

Mr. Richard Dougherty
Import Manager
FedEx Trade Networks
501 Elmwood Avenue
Elmwood Court II
Sharon Hill, PA 19079-1033

RE: Coaster/Frame Set Made Primarily of Wood and Glass

Dear Mr. Dougherty:

This is in response to your letter dated May 10, 2004, on behalf of O’Rouke Family Interest Inc., requesting a ruling on the classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) of a coaster/frame set which is primarily made of wood and glass. The National Commodity Specialist Division forwarded your letter and a sample of the product to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Headquarters, Office of Regulations and Rulings, for a decision in this matter.


The product under consideration is referred to as the “S/6 Photo Coaster Set” and is assigned the style number AW1329-AL. The product consists of six coasters made primarily of wood and glass. As coasters, the product functions to protect surfaces of a table, a bar or desk from water rings and spills. In addition, the product has a second function as a photo frame to display photographs or pictures. Each of the coaster/frames must be laid flat because they will not stand up on their own as they have no hooks, wires, or other means to be hung on a wall.

The coaster/frames are square shaped composed of two basic materials, wood and glass. The top surface layer of the coaster/frame consists of two sheets of glass that are attached together. The glass sheets lay flat on the top of a wooden square base. Each coaster/frame square measures 10 cm by 10 cm. The coaster/frames are about 1 cm thick, with the glass portion making up about .2 cm of the thickness and the wood portion having a thickness of about .8 cm. One sheet of glass is painted around its edge to give the appearance that the picture is matted. On the side of the coaster/frames there is a wooden piece with a plastic pouch pasted to it that slides out so that a picture or a photograph can be placed in the plastic pouch and slid under the glass of the coaster/frame. The bottom of each coaster/frame has a black fabric felt lining. However, in terms of their role, value and bulk in making up the coaster/frames, the black felt lining and the plastic photo pouch do not appear to be very significant.

The six coaster/frames are stored in an “X” shaped wooden holder stand. The coaster/frames are sold together with the holder stand. The six coaster/frames and their holder are separable components that adapted to each other and are mutually complementary. The “X” shaped holder with its upright sides is the exact size and shape necessary to hold the six coaster/frames.


What is the proper classification of the coaster/frame set under the HTSUS?


Classification under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) is made in accordance with the General Rules of Interpretation (GRI’s). 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 GRIs may then be applied.

The Harmonized Commodity Description And Coding System Explanatory Notes (EN’s) constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized System. While not legally binding on the contracting parties, and therefore not dispositive, the EN’s provide a commentary on the scope of each heading of the Harmonized System and are thus useful in ascertaining the classification of merchandise under the system. Customs believes the EN’s should always be consulted. See T.D. 8980, 54 Fed. Reg. 35127, 35128 (Aug. 23, 1989).

The HTSUS provisions under consideration are as follows:

4419.00 Tableware and kitchenware, of wood:

4419.00.80 Other

7013 Glassware of a kind used for table, kitchen, toilet, office, indoor decoration or similar purposes (other than that of heading 7010 or 7018):

Glassware of a kind used for table (other than drinking glasses) or kitchen purposes other than that of glass- ceramics:

7013.99 Other:

EN 44.19 states:

This heading covers only household articles of wood, whether or not turned, or of wood marquetry or inlaid wood, which are of the nature of tableware or kitchenware. It does not, however, cover goods which are primarily ornamental in character, nor furniture.

The heading includes: spoons, forks, salad-servers; platters and serving-dishes; jars, cups and saucers; common spice-boxes and other kitchen containers; crumb-scoops, not incorporating brushes; napkin rings; rolling pins; pastry moulds; butter patters; pestles; nutcrackers, trays; bowls; bread boards; chopping boards; plate racks; capacity measures for use in the kitchen.

EN 70.13 states

This heading covers the following types of articles, most of which are obtained by pressing or blowing in moulds:

(1) Table or kitchen glassware, e.g. drinking glasses, goblets, tankards, decanters, infants’ feeding bottles, pitchers, jugs, plates, salad bowls, sugar-bowls, sauce-boats, fruit-stands, cake-stands, hors-d’oeuvres dishes, bowls, basins, egg-cups, butter dishes, oil or vinegar cruets, dishes (for serving, cooking, etc.), stew-pans, casseroles, trays, salt cellars, sugar sifters, knife-rests, mixers, table hand bells, coffee-pots and coffee-filters, sweetmeat boxes, graduated kitchenware, plate warmers, table mats, certain parts of domestic churns, cups for coffee-mills, cheese dishes, lemon squeezers, ice-buckets.

Articles of glass combined with other materials (base metal, wood, etc.), are classified in this heading only if the glass gives the whole the character of glass articles

Because classification in a single heading cannot be determined by applying GRI 1, we must apply the other GRI's. GRI 2(a) is not applicable here because the merchandise is not incomplete or unfinished. GRI 2(b) states that if a product is a mixture or combination of materials or substances that are, prima facie, classifiable in two or more headings, then GRI 3 applies. GRI 3 states:

[w]hen, 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 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.

The glass and the wooden components of the coaster frames fall under separate headings in the tariff schedule which describe only a portion of the good. Therefore, the headings are to be regarded as equally specific under GRI 3(a). Because GRI 3(a) fails in establishing classification, GRI 3(b) becomes applicable. GRI 3(b) provides that composite goods consisting of different materials or made up of different components, shall be classified as if they consisted of the material or component which gives them their essential character.

The EN for GRI 3(b), state as follows:

(VI) This second method relates only to:

(i) Mixtures.

(ii) Composite goods consisting of different materials.

(iii) Composite goods consisting of different components. (iv) Goods put up in sets for retail sales.

It applies only if Rule 3(a) fails:

(VII) In all these cases the goods 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.

(VIII) 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.

(IX) For the purposes of this Rule, composite goods made up of different components shall be taken to mean not only those in which the components are attached to each other to form a practically inseparable whole but also those with separable components, provided these components are adapted one to the other and are mutually complementary and that together they form a whole which would not normally be offered for sale in separate parts.

Examples of the latter category of goods are:

(1) Ashtrays consisting of a stand incorporating a removable ash bowl.

(2) Household spice racks consisting of a specially designed frame (usually of wood) and an appropriate number of empty spice jars of suitable shape and size.

Based on the language of the EN’s for GRI 3, we conclude that the coaster/frames made of wood with a surface layer of glass sold with a wooden holder stand are composite goods. As the EN's further indicate that composite goods are classifiable as if they consisted of the component or material, which gives them their essential character, we must determine whether the wood or the glass gives the essential character to the coaster/frames.

In general, CBP has construed essential character to mean the attribute, which strongly marks or serves to distinguish what an article is, that which is indispensable to the structure, core, or condition of the article. See HQ 956538 dated November 29, 1994. In this instance, the coaster/frames consist of two basic materials, wood and glass. In determining which of these materials imparts the essential character of the coaster/frames under consideration, we recognize that it is a product that has a dual function. It functions as a coaster to protect surfaces on a table, bar, desk, etc. from damage caused by spills and water rings. It also functions as a picture frame to display pictures or photographs. In addition, we also note that both of the major materials, wood and glass, contribute to the coaster function and picture frame function of the article. The glass is transparent so that a picture can be displayed. However, the wooden material also does play a role in the frame function of the article by helping to keep a picture in place. While the top surface layer of the coaster/frame where a drinking glass or cup would sit is made of glass, the bottom part of the coaster/frame which protects the table or bar surface is made of wood.

We have reviewed several prior rulings that CBP has issued concerning coasters made of different materials. These rulings indicate that the classification of coasters is generally based on the constituent material that makes up most of the coaster. In NY C89934 dated August 7, 1998, the product consisted of a beechwood stand and six matching coasters made of beechwood with cork inserts. We classified the coasters based on the its wooden component in subheading 4419.00.80, HTSUS.

In NY 895968 dated April 1, 1994, CBP considered the classification of coasters of a kind placed under a glass of beer or other beverage to protect the surface of a bar or table. It was a composite sheet, roughly 3 1/2 millimeters thick, in the shape of a rounded-corner roughly square measuring about 9 x 9 centimeters. The bottom layer (base) was cork, about 1.2 mm thick; the center layer was stiff, multi-ply paperboard, about 2.1 mm thick; and the top layer is glossy coated paper, about 0.2 mm thick, printed with a picture. We indicated that the paperboard imparted the essential character of the item and that it was classified in subheading 4823.60.00, HTSUS, which covers trays, dishes, plates and the like, of paper or paperboard.

NY R00005 dated March 27, 2004 concerned the classification of a set of four coaster picture holders made of glass and metal, which were sold with a wooden stand for holding the coaster/picture holders. Each coaster/picture holder consisted of a glass square top over a square metal base. The ruling stated that the glass portion of this item functioned as a coaster. In addition, the product functioned as a picture holder with the picture being inserted beneath the glass. CBP determined that the product should be classified as an article of glass in subheading 7013.99.50, HTSUS. Although the product ruled on in NY R00005 appears to be very similar to the coaster/frames under consideration in this case, the ruling lacked critical facts, such as the thickness of the metal or the glass, total quantity of each constituent material and costs of each constituent material. Consequently, we do not believe that NY R00005 should be controlling on how the coaster/frames under consideration in this case are classified.

As noted previously, GRI 3(b) indicates that the essential character of a composite good consisting of multiple materials, can be determined based on the material that makes up the bulk of the article. In this instance, the wooden portion of the coaster/frame is much thicker than glass portion. The glass makes up only the top surface layer of the coaster/frames. Especially, when the holder stands are also included as part of the product, it is clear that wood makes up the bulk of the product. Additionally, the wood is also more elaborately cut and is fully painted. In contrast, the glass portion of the coaster/frame consists of fairly simple clear glass sheets with a line painted around the edge on one of the sheet... The wooden portion of the coaster/frame also functions to help hold the glass sheets in place. Accordingly, we believe that the glass portion of coast/frame does not impart the essential character to the whole article. For these reasons, we find that the wooden portion determines the essential character of the coaster/frame and that it should be classified as an article of wood in Chapter 44, HTSUS.

In determining which of the subheadings of Chapter 44 that the coaster/frame should be classified, we note that EN 44.19 lists a number of items used on a table or that are connected with serving or preparing food. We believe that the coaster/frames whether used as a coaster and/or as a picture frame, will be primarily used on a table. Therefore, we conclude that the coaster/frames are classified in subheading 4419.00.80, HTSUS as tableware and kitchenware of wood: Other.


In accordance with GRI 3(b), the coaster/frames made up of wood and glass are classified in subheading 4419.00.8000, Harmonize Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (HTSUSA) as: Tableware and kitchenware of wood: Other at a column one rate of duty of 3.2 percent ad valorem. Duty rates are provided for your convenience and are subject to change. The text of the most recent HTSUS and the accompanying duty rates are provided on the World Wide Web at www.usitc.gov.


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