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CBP Plans to Continue Broad Definition of Wrenches Despite Court Ruling

Monday, November 25, 2019
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is proposing to limit a court decision on the classification of locking pliers to (a) the goods in the specific entries before the court in that case and (b) locking pliers identical to those goods in all material respects. Comments on this proposal are due by Dec. 20.

In April 2019 the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a Court of International Trade ruling that five styles of a hand tool collectively referred to as locking pliers are properly classified as pliers under HTSUS 8203.20.6030 and rejected CBP’s classification of these tools as wrenches under HTSUS 8204.12.00. The CAFC made its determination on the basis of the items’ physical characteristics rather than their use, stating that while the record suggests that tools may be designed for a particular use, the language of these subheadings does not imply that use or design is a defining characteristic.

CBP states that it is proposing to limit the application of this decision because it believes the definition applied by the court unduly limits the scope of the term “wrench” and precludes articles that function as wrenches from classification as such.

As a result, in all other cases CBP would continue to define a wrench as a tool with a special ability to fixedly grasp an object and allow the user to exert a twisting or wrenching force. CBP states that a wrench usually contains fixed and adapted jaws or sockets or adjustable jaws, one of which is fixed at the end of a lever for holding or turning a bolt, pipe, or other object. A wrench may also have a second handle or lever that serves to lock and release the moveable jaw.

For assistance pursuing a classification issue through litigation, please contact Lee Sandler at (305) 894-1000.

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