Showing posts from May, 2020

Ruling of the Week: An Inflatable (W)easel

I keep an eye on rulings from CBP with a focus on those that are slightly off kilter or entertaining to the 12-year old boy that still lives in my head. Cruising the most recent Customs Record, I saw that Customs and Border Protection had issued a ruling concerning the classification of a Giant Inflatable Weasel. Alas, when I sat down to read the ruling, I found it actually concerned a giant inflatable easel. That is far less silly, but equally as illustrative. So, here is what we can learn from HQ H301988 (May 14, 2020) . The merchandise is a PVC inflatable easel. I do not know for certain that this is the same product, but based on the description, it seems to be. The image comes from, which is mysteriously close to Plow & Hearth, the party that requested the ruling, so I am going with this being it. The product comes with four cans of paint, one brush, and four sponges. Custom initially classified this item as furniture in 9403.70.4015 or 9403.70.8015, depending on

Service of Process at the CIT: Part II

This is the second decision involving whether the United States properly served a summons and complaint on Chu-Chiang "Kevin" Ho, one of the defendants in a penalty case. The alleged violation  is the false description of imported HID headlight kits. The kits are not admissible merchandise because they violate U.S. Department of Transportation safety rules. On the entry documents, the merchandise was described as ballasts for interior track lights.  Assuming the truth of that allegation, the question remains whether Mr. Ho was properly served. Without proper service the Court of International Trade does not have person jurisdiction over him and the case cannot proceed. The rules related to this are covered in the prior post . Here, we are dealing with an opinion involving a separate but related case. This decision is slip opinion 20-66 . The principal question presented is whether the process server hired by the government successfully served Mr. Ho at his home. The facts are

Service of Process at the CIT, Part I

In two recent decisions of the Court of International Trade, Judge Reif has used a number of movie and television references in the course of deciding, among other things, whether a defendant had been properly served. This post will cover the first of those decisions. Service of the summons and complaint is a necessary step because it alerts the a party of the filing of a law suit and allows defendant to  properly respond. If service is not properly accomplished, the case may be dismissed. In the Court of International Trade, service is controlled by Rule 4 .  Relevant here is Rule 4(b), which states that in cases commenced by the concurrent filing of a summons and complaint, the plaintiff is required to serve the defendant. Furthermore, Rule 4(l) dictates that: If a defendant is not served within 90 days after the complaint is filed, the   court – on motion or on its own after notice to the plaintiff – must dismiss the action without prejudice against that defendant or order that serv

Ruling of the Week: Note Cards

Frankly, I am not the most thoughtful person in the world. I know that. I try my best to make up for it. Rarely does that effort include a greeting card. When forced by circumstances, I stand at the local Walgreen's card racks staring into an abyss of cards that are never quite right. Finding something in the sweet spot between excessively sappy and an infantile effort at humor is incredibly frustrating. Often, I end up with a call, email or the dreaded Facebook message. So, it surprises me to learn that people still buy boxes of pre-printed cards as ready-at-hand supplies should the need for a card materialize. Apparently, this happens. This all comes to mind in the context of HQ H305186 (May 8, 2020)  in which Customs and Border Protection classified a set of 60 note cards for Michaels Stores.  The actual cards in the set fell into distinct categories, which will be important for classification purposes. Three styles of cards were printed with an exterior design. Three styles had

Bottle Toppers, Assemble!

Under any circumstances, if the Court of International Trade mentions Iron Man and Thor in a decision, it has my attention. Even more so as I sit here today, working from home, wearing a Captain America t-shirt and a quarantine beard. For those who care, the Court also mentioned Care Bears, Ariel, and Sponge Bob. Pick your own fandom. The cause for all this pop culture excitement is the decision in In Zone Brands, Inc. and Good2Grow, Inc. v. United States , which involves the classification of plastic bottle toppers molded into the forms of licensed characters and sold connected to a bottle of juice. In life, the products look like this: The plaintiffs claimed that the toppers, imported separate from the bottles of juice, should be classified as toys in Heading 9503. Customs & Border Protection classified the merchandise in Heading 3923 as stoppers, lids and other closures of plastic. Those of you who have been around for a while might think this question was resolved in 2000 in a

Ruling of the Week: Rice Krispies Treats

I had a long run of covering at least one CBP ruling every week. I enjoyed doing that as it allowed me to find an odd ruling and use it as a tool to illustrate some point. That fell by the wayside, mainly because of the time commitment it takes to do actual work and also write other content for the blog. On the other hand, I kind of miss it. Others have tried to fill that space. I am looking at you, Crowell & Moring.  Today, I am inspired to jump back in. That inspiration came in the form of the printed New York Times. In today's Science Times, there was an interesting and entertaining discussion of whether a reasonably functional traffic barrier could be made of Rice Krispies Treats. In the course of that discussion , the author quotes Customs & Border Protection for what seems to be an "official" description of a Rice Krispies Treat. According to the Article: "[T]he Tariff Classification and Marking Branch, a part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, desc

Worn Clothing and Commingled Products

One thing you learn as a customs and trade professional is that there is international trade in just about any commodity you can imagine. Today, we are dealing with the inbound trade in used clothing. I was aware that there is a lot of exporting of this product from the U.S. both for resale and also for recycling. The NPR podcast Planet Money did a great episode on the afterlife of U.S. clothing in Africa and then tracked down the original owner of a bat mitzvah t-shirt that ended up in Africa. Here is a report on that story from Haaretz  and here is the original podcast . But, Dis Vintage LLC v. United States is a case about the classification of used clothing coming into the United States. The plaintiff imported bales of used clothing and classified the merchandise in HTSUS item 6309.00.00 as "worn clothing," which is a duty free. CBP sampled the merchandise and found that the clothing did not show "appreciable wear." CBP has long used "appreciable wear&quo