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Football Clothing Not Classified as Sports Equipment, Court Says

Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed June 20 that certain football jerseys, pants and girdles that are designed to be worn in conjunction with protective pads (but do not contain such items as imported) are properly classified as articles of apparel rather than as sports equipment. The court upheld the Court of International Trade’s classification of the pants under HTSUS 6114.30.30 (14.9% duty) and the jerseys under HTSUS 6110.30.30 (32% duty) and determined that the girdles are more appropriately classified under HTSUS 6114.30.30. The plaintiff had argued for classification under HTSUS 9506.99.20 (duty-free).

The CAFC cited two previous decisions on related items (Bauer Nike Hockey USA Inc. v. U.S. and Lemans Corp. v. U.S.) as supporting“the strong general rule” that sports equipment does not include articles that, as imported, would be understood as garments based on the predominance of textile material and the usual predominant function of covering portions of the body. There is a narrow exception for items that, as imported, contain a character-transforming amount of material not ordinarily found in mere body-covering clothing that functions to provide forms of protection not inherent in common body coverings. However, the court concludes, the items at issue do not meet that description because they do not come bundled with or otherwise incorporate any form of padding or protective inserts; instead, the pads with which they are designed to be used are separate articles entirely. The fact that these items have a specialized use does not make them lose their character as articles of apparel, which also prevents them from being classified as parts or accessories of sports equipment.

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