Monday, October 24, 2011

It's a Win

Sometimes the most important case in the world is your own. In that context, I give you Firstrax v. United States. The issue in this case was the tariff classification of collapsible pet crates used to provide a portable home for dogs and an aesthetic alternative to wire crates. Some of the smaller crates involved included a handle on the top. This created a superficial similarity in appearance to pet carriers, which these products are not. The primary distinction between the two is that pet carriers tend to have a rigid bottom for the comfort of the animal and these crates rely on the floor or ground to provide a rigid surface.

Customs and Border Protection wanted to classify these products in HTSUS Heading 4202 on the theory that they are similar to travel bags used to transport, store, protect, and organize personal affects. The Court of International Trade disagreed with this on almost every front. According to the court, a living, breathing pet cannot be "stored" an a manner similar to socks in a suitcase and a single pet (without accessories or other items) cannot be said to be "organized" like toiletries in a travel bag. Also, the evidence indicated that the crates are not meaningfully protective and are not designed for transport. Thus, the crates are unlike the exemplars in 4202. Rather, the crates are classifiable as other made up articles of textile.

Of course, I think this is a good decision. I think it may be applicable to other circumstances in which a textile or plastic container holds a single item, but that depends on the facts. The other open question is whether the U.S. will appeal. That remains to be seen.

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