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Court Rules on Classification of Bottles Imported Empty for Use in Scent Diffusion Kits

Friday, July 19, 2013
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The Court of International Trade ruled July 17 that diffuser bottles used in the production of fragrance diffusion kits are properly classified as glass bottles for the conveyance of oils under HTSUS 7010.90.50 (duty-free). U.S. Customs and Border Protection had argued that the bottles should be classified as glassware for indoor decoration under HTSUS 7013.99.50 (30% duty).

The bottles at issue are imported and sold empty. In the U.S. the bottles are filled with diffuser oil and diffuser reeds, along with a stopper, and packaged together with other items in a diffuser kit sold under retailers’ private label brands.

The plaintiff argued that the principal use of the diffuser bottles is to convey the fragranced oil to the ultimate consumer and that consumers purchase the kit for the oil, not the bottle. The plaintiff added that the bottles are intended to be discarded after use and are not marketed for storage purposes. CBP countered that the bottle’s “pleasing design and principal use as an attractive means to fragrance a space in a home or office for extended periods of time” make it similar to a vase.

In examining the so-called Carborundum factors, the CIT found that (a) the capacity of the bottles to take a stopper is a physical characteristic that distinguishes glassware for the conveyance of goods from decorative glassware, (b) the value of the bottle is small compared to the overall price of the finished product, indicating that consumers expect to discard the bottles after use, and (c) the bottles were not sold empty at retail and were never marketed or sold directly to consumers by themselves.

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