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UBIES Costume Co. v. United States

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

April 29, 2019

UBIES COSTUME COMPANY, Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
UNITED STATES, Defendant-Appellee

          Appeal from the United States Court of International Trade in No. 1:13-cv-00407-MAB, Judge Mark A. Barnett.

          Glenn H. Ripa, New York, NY, argued for plaintiff-appellant. Also represented by John Anthony Bessich, Suzanne McCaffery, Follick & Bessich, P.C., Huntington Station, NY.

          Peter Mancuso, International Trade Field Office, Commercial Litigation Branch, Civil Division, United States Department of Justice, New York, NY, argued for defendant-appellee. Also represented by Amy Rubin; Jeanne Davidson, Joseph H. Hunt, Washington, DC; Michael W. Heydrich, Office of the Assistant Chief Counsel, United States Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, United States Department of Homeland Secrity, New York, NY.

          Before Prost, Chief Judge, Reyna and Hughes, Circuit Judges.

          REYNA, CIRCUIT JUDGE

         Rubies Costume Company appeals the grant of summary judgment by the Court of International Trade in favor of the Government as to the tariff classification of certain imported merchandise. The imported merchandise consists of a nine-piece Santa Claus costume packaged and sold together as a set. The Santa Claus costume is customarily worn in connection with the celebration of the Christmas holiday. The parties argue as to the implications of the "festive" nature of the costume. The merchandise, however, is excluded from classification as "festive articles" by the notes to chapter 95 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States. The correct classification of the merchandise is under HTSUS 6110.30.30, 6103.43.15, 6116.93.94, and 4209.92.30. On that basis, we affirm the judgment of the Court of International Trade.

         Background

         I. The Imported Merchandise

         The Court of International Trade ("CIT") set forth the following undisputed facts. Rubies Costume Company ("Rubies") imports and sells traditional Christmas Santa Claus costumes, including the "Premier Plush 9 Piece Santa Suit" ("the Santa Suit") at issue in this case. The Santa Suit consists of a jacket, pants, gloves, a toy sack, a beard, a wig, a hat, a belt, and shoe covers. Rubies packages and sells the nine pieces of the Santa Suit together in a zippered plastic bag as shown below:

         (Image Omitted)

         J.A. 649.

         The jacket and pants are made from 73% acrylic/27% polyester knit pile fabric. The sewn-in care instruction labels in the jacket and pants state that the garments require dry cleaning.

         The jacket comes in one standard size and has a double-layer collar with white faux fur fabric and a front snap closure. The jacket features a full-length zipper closure in the front, concealed by an overlapping flap of white faux fur that snaps at top and bottom. The jacket sleeves have turned-edge hemming and white faux fur cuffs. The jacket also includes double-layer belt loops and tightly stitched interior seams. Woven satin fabric lines the entire jacket.

         The pants have pockets with turned-edge hemming and tightly stitched seams. An elasticized waist with a 1.75"-wide waist band secures the pants on the wearer. The ankle edge of the pants is sewn with a loose overlock stitch that the wearer tucks into boots during use. Woven satin fabric also lines the pants.

         Of the other pieces of the Santa Suit, only the gloves and toy sack are also at issue in this case. The gloves consist of 100% polyester knit fabric and have fourchettes between the fingers. The toy sack measures thirty-six inches in length and is constructed from 100% polyester knit pile fabric. The toy sack closes with a drawstring cord.

         II. The Procedural History

         On June 20, 2012, Rubies requested a binding pre-importation ruling from U.S. Customs and Border Protection ("Customs") on the tariff classification of the Santa Suit. Exactly one year later, Customs issued Ruling Letter HQ H237067 in which it classified the Santa Suit under several tariff classifications of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States ("HTSUS"). See Customs Ruling HQ H237067 (June 20, 2013), 2013 WL 3783025, at *1. On October 25, 2013, after Rubies entered the subject merchandise, Customs applied its HQ H237067 ruling and liquidated the entry of the Santa Suit according to the following classifications and duty rates for each piece:

Piece

HTSUS Class

Duty Rate

Jacket

6105.20.20

32.0% ad valorem

Pants

6103.43.15

28.2% ad valorem

Gloves [1]

6115.95.60

10.0% ad valorem

Toy Sack

4202.92.30

17.6% ad valorem

Beard, Wig, Hat, Belt, Shoe Covers

9505.90.60

Free of Duty

         J.A. 6-7; J.A. 719-21.

         Rubies protested the liquidation of the entry pursuant to 19 U.S.C. § 1514(a). Rubies contended that all nine pieces of the Santa Suit fall under HTSUS chapter 95 as "[f]estive . . . articles," requiring duty-free entry, and requested an accelerated disposition of the protest. Customs did not render a decision on the protest within thirty days, so the protest was deemed denied under 19 U.S.C. § 1515(b) on December 14, 2013. On December 27, 2013, Rubies filed suit in the CIT, challenging the denied protest.

         After discovery, Rubies and the Government filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The CIT denied Rubies' motion and granted summary judgment in favor of the Government. The CIT found that "the Santa Suit is not a festive article." J.A. 2. The CIT found that the pieces of the Santa Suit fell under the following HTSUS provisions: 6110.30.30 for the jacket; 6103.43.15 for the pants; 6116.93.94 for the gloves; and 4202.92.30 for the toy sack. The parties did not dispute the classification of the beard, wig, hat, belt, and shoe covers.

         The CIT's classification of the Santa Suit jacket differed from Customs' classification. The CIT determined that the jacket fell under heading 6110, and not heading 6105. Note 4 of chapter 61 requires that garments under heading 6105 must have more than ten stitches per linear centimeter. J.A. 33. The undisputed facts at summary judgment showed that the jacket did not meet this requirement. The CIT, therefore, found that the proper classification for the jacket was under heading 6110, ...


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