Home Depot and Entry Hardware

Home Depot and stores if its ilk are one of the many places I go to find out how little I know about a great many things. Generally, I employ a "three step test" for home improvement projects. Under that test, if the project requires more than three process steps or three steps up a ladder, I outsource the job. That means there are vast arrays of hardware items to which I have had little or no exposure. On the other hand, I have done a lot of tariff classifications of power tools, hand tools, lawn and garden products, and home appliances (and parts thereof). Consequently, when I do wander into a Home Depot I sometimes pick up the odd lock washer or large forged hand tool and ask questions like "Is this in scope?" or "Is this really Made in USA?"

The actual Home Depot company, on the other, recently asked the U.S. Court of International Trade to classify various pieces of door hardware. The merchandise consisted of packaged exterior door knobs and trim, interior knobs and trim, a latch, strike plate, installation hardware, and keys. The exterior knob included a key slot and keyed cylinder (meaning the lock portion). Customs and Border Protection classified the merchandise in 8301.40.60 as locks. Home Depot contended that the merchandise was classifiable in 8302 .41.60 as fittings for doors, etc. suitable for buildings.

So, the sole question appears to be whether the presence of the lock in the exterior knob is sufficient to require classification as a lock in 8301.

The Court of International Trade started by defining "lock" as a device securing a door in a closed position with a bolt propelled by a key or other mechanism. Looking to the merchandise, the Court quickly found that it consisted of key-operated locks intended to secure doors and that the locks were of base metal.

The Court then concluded that the door knobs are parts of the locks. It got there by looking to industry standards. On top of that, the Court found that Home Depot advertises this merchandise as door locks. Consequently, the Court held that the merchandise is classifiable in 8301as locks.

That leaves the question of whether the merchandise is also classifiable in 8302. According to Home Depot, these goods were just knobs improved with locking mechanisms. A such, they are door fittings. This makes some sense because an eo nomine description includes all forms of the article including later developed improvements.

Alas, this clever argument did not prevail. The Court noted that there is nothing inherently wrong with having similar products in two different headings if the language of the headings separates the articles. In this case, 8301 specifically includes locks. Heading 8302, on the other hand, only includes fittings for doors and similar items. Thus, the description in 8302 is incomplete compared to the description in 8301. Thus, the Court found 8301 to apply.

Note that this is not a decision based on General Rule of Interpretation 3 and Relative Specificity. The Court's holding is that the goods are not described by 8302. Thus, there is no reason to compare the specificity of the two headings.


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