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Modular Storage Unit Components Classified as Furniture Parts, Court Says

Thursday, July 20, 2017
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has reversed a Court of International Trade decision and ruled that two storage unit components are classifiable as parts of furniture under HTSUS 9403.90.80 (duty-free). U.S. Customs and Border Protection had classified these items as base metal mountings suitable for buildings under HTSUS 8302.41.60 (3.9 percent duty) and the CIT had classified them as steel mountings, fittings, and similar articles suitable for furniture under HTSUS 8302.42.30 (3.9 percent duty).

The products at issue are top tracks and hanging standards, two components of a patented system that consumers can assemble in a variety of configurations to create customized modular storage units for homes and offices. Both are elongated rectangular strips of hardware made of epoxy-bonded steel. The hanging standards suspend from the top track and additional components such as drawers, baskets, and shelves can then be attached to the standards.

CBP argued that these products are parts of general use, which are excluded from the scope of heading 9403. The plaintiff countered that the items are dedicated solely for use with a completed unit furniture system and, pursuant to the CAFC’s 2011 decision in storeWALL LLC v. U.S., are thus classifiable as parts of unit furniture.

The CAFC states that the CIT did not give due consideration to Explanatory Note 83.02, which “draws a sharp distinction between ‘general purpose … accessory fittings and mountings,’ which fall within the scope of heading 8302, and ‘goods forming an essential part of the structure of [an] article,’ which do not.” The CAFC states that the components at issue are essential structural components of the modular storage system, and are thus excluded from heading 8302, because they provide an indispensable structural framework for that system. The court also rejects CBP’s attempt to draw a parallel between these components and hinges or knobs for doors, pointing out that while such items may be essential to the operation of a door they are not essential parts of the structure of the door itself.

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