Motocross Boots Not Classified as Sports Equipment or Sports Footwear, Court Says
The Court of International Trade ruled Aug. 2 in Alpinestars S.P.A. v. U.S. that Tech 8 motocross boots are properly classified under HTSUS 6403.91.60 as other footwear covering the ankle with outer soles of rubber, plastics, leather or composition leather and uppers of leather (8.5% duty). Customs and Border Protection had classified the boots as other footwear covering the ankle with outer soles and uppers of rubber or plastics under HTSUS 6401.91.90 (20% duty).
The boots at issue consist of an interior bootie and an external shell that are designed to work together to protect the foot and lower leg of a motocross rider. The external shell incorporates a heavy durable sole, a hard plastic protective shin guard, and padding. A hard plastic ankle protector is sandwiched between the lining and the outer surface of the upper in the area of the ankle and heel.
The CIT rejects the plaintiff’s argument that the boots are classified as sports equipment under HTSUS 9506.99.60 (4% duty). The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held in LeMans Corp. v. U.S. that articles worn by the user must “complement, or be worn in addition to, apparel worn for a particular sport” to be classified as sports equipment, and the CIT states that the motocross boots do not meet this criterion because they are “simply footwear” and footwear is one of the “two essential items that people wear, regardless of whether one is dressing for a sport.”
Instead, the court states, the boots are classified as footwear with uppers of leather under HTSUS 6403 because leather is the material having the greatest external surface area of the upper. Although 43.5% of the upper is of rubber or plastic and only 34.3% is leather by itself, the court adds to the latter figure the area of leather underlying several components of the upper that the court deems to be accessories; i.e., non-essential articles that add to the aesthetics, convenience or effectiveness of the footwear. A 2007 U.S. Customs and Border Protection classification ruling that came to a different conclusion is not entitled to judicial deference, the court states, because it “provides no analysis on the meaning of accessories or reinforcements and is therefore not persuasive.”
The CIT also holds that the boots are not sports footwear under HTSU 6403.19.40 (4.3% duty) because they do not have or have provision for the attachment of spikes, sprigs, cleats, stops, clips, bars or the like.