24 F.3d 1390 (Fed. Cir. 1994), 93-1140, Sports Graphics, Inc. v. United States

Docket Nº:93-1140.
Citation:24 F.3d 1390
Party Name:SPORTS GRAPHICS, INC., Plaintiff-Appellee, v. The UNITED STATES, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:May 12, 1994
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

Page 1390

24 F.3d 1390 (Fed. Cir. 1994)

SPORTS GRAPHICS, INC., Plaintiff-Appellee,


The UNITED STATES, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 93-1140.

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

May 12, 1994

Ralph H. Sheppard, Adduci, Mastriani, Schaumberg & Schill, New York City, argued for plaintiff-appellee. With him on the brief, was Lisa Levaggi Borter.

Nancy M. Frieden, Commercial Litigation Branch, Dept. of Justice, New York City, argued, for defendant-appellant. With her on the brief, were Stuart E. Schiffer, Acting Asst. Atty. Gen., David M. Cohen, Director and Joseph I. Liebman, Atty. in Charge,

Page 1391

Intern. Trade Field Office. Also on the brief, was Arlene Klolkzo, Office of Asst. Chief Counsel, Intern. Trade Litigation, U.S. Customs Service, of counsel.

Before RICH, PLAGER, and RADER, Circuit Judges.

RICH, Circuit Judge.

The United States appeals the decision of the Court of International Trade reversing a classification of goods under the Tariff Schedule of the United States (TSUS) by the Customs Service (Customs) in Sports Graphics, Inc. v. United States, 806 F.Supp. 268 (Ct.Int'l Trade 1992). For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.


The merchandise at issue consists of soft-sided so-called "Chill" coolers imported from Taiwan by Sports Graphics during the period from 1986 through 1988. "Chill" coolers in various sizes were imported. All of the "Chill" coolers have the following characteristics: an outer shell of a vinyl-coated nylon material; an insulating core of approximately 1/2 inch thick polymer-based closed cell foam; a top secured by a zippered interlocking flap; an inner liner of vinyl; a handle or shoulder strap of nylon webbing and plastic fixtures as a means of carrying the merchandise; and exterior pockets secured by VELCRO or zippered closures. The merchandise at issue is used to store food and is designed to be carried.

Customs classified the merchandise under the luggage provision, item 706.62, TSUS, at a rate of 20% ad valorem. Sports Graphics protested this classification pursuant to 19 USC 1514(a). The protest was denied. Sports Graphics subsequently brought an action in the United States Court of International Trade contesting the denial of its protest. 28 USC 1581(a) (1988). Sports Graphics contended that the imported soft-sided coolers were properly classifiable as "[a]rticles chiefly used for preparing, serving, or storing food or beverages ..." under item 772.15 (or 772.16), TSUS, at a rate of 4 or 3.4% ad valorem. 1

The trial court held that Customs improperly classified the merchandise under item 706.62, TSUS, and that the correct classification of the merchandise is item 772.15 (or 772.16), TSUS. The United States now appeals from the judgment of the trial court. We have jurisdiction under 28 USC 1295(a)(5) (1988).


The ultimate issue as to whether particular imported merchandise has been classified under an appropriate tariff provision is a question of law which we review de novo. W.R. Filbin & Co., Inc. v. United States, 945 F.2d 390, 392 (Fed.Cir.1991). Resolution of that issue entails a two step process: (1) ascertaining the proper meaning of specific terms in the tariff provision; and (2) determining whether the merchandise at issue comes within the description of such terms as properly construed. The first step is a question of law which we review de novo and the second is a question of fact which we review for clear error...

To continue reading