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Avenues v. United States

May 20, 1999

AVENUES IN LEATHER, INC., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Before Clevenger, Circuit Judge, Skelton, Senior Circuit Judge, and Gajarsa, Circuit Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Clevenger, Circuit Judge.

Appealed from: United States Court of International Trade Senior Judge Bernard Newman

Avenues in Leather, Inc., appeals the Court of International Trade's decision upholding the tariff classification and rate of duty imposed by the United States Customs Service on large leather cases or "folios" upon their importation into the United States. See Avenues in Leather, Inc., v. United States, 11 F. Supp. 2d 719 (Ct. Int'l Trade 1998). Because we agree with the Court of International Trade that the goods were properly classified, we affirm.

I.

The imported goods at issue are four types of leather "folios," which the parties agree are so similar as to require identical classification. Broadly speaking, the folios are used to store, organize, and carry papers, books, pens, pencils, and the like. They can be opened and closed; each of the folios measures at least 13 inches tall by 10 inches wide when closed. Contents can be secured by the use of a three-sided zipper and gusset or by the several pockets located both inside and outside the folios. A three-ring binder is attached to the interior spine of each folio, and a lined notepad is provided. The outside of the folios are covered with leather, contain large pockets, and have handles either built into the spine or recessed into the pockets.

Upon their importation, the United States Customs Service ("Customs") classified the folios under Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States ("HTSUS") subheading 4202.11.00 ("Heading 4202"), which covers:

"4202 Trunks, suitcases, vanity cases, attaché cases, briefcases, school satchels, spectacle cases, binocular cases, camera cases, musical instrument cases, gun cases, holsters and similar containers; traveling bags, toiletry bags, knapsacks and back packs, handbags, shopping bags, wallets, purses, map cases, cigarette cases, tobacco pouches, tool bags, sports bags, bottle cases, jewelry boxes, powder cases, cutlery cases and similar containers, of leather or of composite leather, of sheeting of plastics, of textile materials, of vulcanized fiber, or of paperboard, or wholly or mainly covered with such materials or with paper:"

"Trunks, suitcases vanity cases, attaché cases, briefcases, school satchels and similar containers: 4202.11.00 With outer surface of leather, of composition leather, or of patent leather."

Avenues in Leather, Inc. ("Avenues") argued, however, that the folios should instead be classified under HTSUS subheading 4820.10.20 ("Heading 4820"), which provides:

"4820 Registers, account books, notebooks, order books, receipt books, letter pads, memorandum pads, diaries and similar articles, exercise books, blotting pads, binders (loose-leaf or other), folders, file covers, manifold business forms, interleaved carbon sets and other articles of stationery, of paper or paperboard; albums for samples or for collections and book covers (including cover boards and book jackets) of paper or paperboard:"

"4820.10 Registers, account books, notebooks, order books, receipt books, letter pads and similar articles:"

"4820.10.20 Diaries, notebooks and address books, bound; memorandum pads, letter pads and similar articles"

The real-world difference between these two classifications is significant: items classified under Heading 4202.11.00 are dutiable at eight percent ad valorem, while items under 4820.10.20 are dutiable at four percent.

Avenues took its dispute with Customs to the Court of International Trade, filing suit in 1994. On cross-motions for summary judgment, that court noted that the parties agreed that no material facts were in dispute. See Avenues in Leather, 11 F. Supp. 2d at 723. The Court of International Trade concluded that, under the rule of ejusdem generis *fn1 --calling for the classification of imported articles with exemplars with which they share the same essential characteristics or purposes that unite the listed exemplars--Customs' decision to enter the goods under Heading 4202 was correct. See id. at 724. The Court of International Trade held that the primary purpose of the imported folios is consistent with the primary purpose of the listed exemplars in Heading 4202, and that ...


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