Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rulings of Interest

Greetings from Canada! I am up hear to speak at the IECanada conference tomorrow. I wish I had more time to stay, but I am doing a travel hit and run to Toronto. I need to be in Chicago on Thursday to speak at a World Trade Center NAFTA event. It's nice to be asked, but October has been a little ridiculous.

On the plane, I read a couple rulings that I found interesting.

First, H021886:

The facts are the kind of oddball thing that only comes up in this area. None of my friends out there writing contracts or litigating injuries will ever see a case like this. Here is how Customs and Border Protection describes the merchandise:

The merchandise at issue is identified as the "Maison Tropicale." It is a structure constructed from sheet steel and aluminum. It was designed by the French architect Jean Prouvé in 1949 and produced in 1951. The Maison Tropicale was created in response to a French government-sponsored competition beginning in 1947 to develop ideas for low cost housing for the French colonies. It measures 59 feet by 32 feet by 16 feet tall and features fork-shaped portico supports of bent steel and an outer shell of aluminum. The walls are made of a series of sheet-metal panels that slide into different positions on overhead tracks. The panels feature 27 portholes of blue tinted glass. Maison Tropicale was built in sections which were shipped from France to the Congo to be assembled on site. Only three Maison Tropicales, of slight varying design, were constructed as it proved to be more expensive than what could be built locally and it did not appeal aesthetically to its intended constituency. The Maison Tropicale was restored after years of abandonment and neglect. It was imported for the express purpose of being put up for sale at auction.



The importer wanted the "piece" classified as a collector's piece of historical interest in Heading 9705, rather than a a prefabricated building. The importer argued that the piece is of historical interest because of its influence on later architects and its connection to the renowned designed.

It seems to me that if the Tate Modern is interested in this thing, it is a collector's piece. No such luck. Customs believes that articles of historical interest must relate to a particular period, like a Civil War cannon. Further, Customs seemed influenced by the fact that the piece was to be auctioned off for private use, rather than placed in a collection (although it might be after the auction). Accordingly, CBP classified it as a building subject to a 2.9% rate of duty.

In a blatant plea for attention, I ask any Pulitzer Prize winning Chicago Tribune architecture critic to give me guidance on this. Is the Maison Tropicale an article of historical significance to collectors? If so, why?

Next issue: What's its value? I'm guessing it's a lot. Frankly, it is late and I know almost nothing about architecture, but if you pulled a judge with an appreciation for this sort of thing . . . .


Next, H0223504:

This just goes in the category of "You learn something every day." The merchandise is a spring action replica of an M-16 rifle. Here's a picture. Basically, the upshot of this is that replicas of guns are classified as if they were the real thing. For some reason that strikes me as odd. Does that apply in other areas of the tariff schedule? Is fake fur classified as if it were a deceased mink? Is I Can't Believe It's Not Butter actually butter for tariff purposes?

Here's another questions: Exactly what does someone do with a spring-action M16? This is what you do with the electric version:

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