Friday, January 07, 2011

Beta Test, or, Color Me Orange

Roche Vitamins, Inc. v. United States is a Court of International Trade opinion on the classification of a beta-carotene product. The tricky thing about beta-carotene is that is can be used as a dietary supplement (as a precursor for vitamin A) or a a colorant that produces a lovely carrot color. This is a good case to read if you are interested in how the Court interprets tariff provisions requiring classification based upon use.

Specifically, the Court held that the phrase "coloring matter" in subheading 3204.19 means that the "matter" must be principally used as coloring. As a result, the Court needs a lot of information to resolve the case. First, the court must determine the "class or kind" of product that encompasses the merchandise. Then, it must consider six factors including physical characteristics, expectations of purchasers, and channels of trade to determine whether the beta-carotene of that class or kind is principally used as coloring.

The problem for the Court appears to be that while it received a lot of legal arguments regarding the classification, it does not have the facts necessary to answer the question about principal use. Thus, in an anticlimactic move, the Court of International Trade refused the plaintiff's motions for summary judgment.

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