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Court Rejects Use Argument in Classification of Pliers

Monday, April 15, 2019
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has 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. The CAFC rejected U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s classification of these tools as wrenches under HTSUS 8204.12.00.

The CIT determined that these items meet the definition of pliers as versatile hand tools having two handles and two jaws on a pivot that can be squeezed together to enable the tools to grasp an object. CBP argued on appeal that the items are wrenches because they are used to grasp an object and then turn or twist it.

However, the CAFC determined that neither of the subheadings at issue are use provisions. While the record suggests that tools may be designed for a particular use, the court said, the language of these subheadings does not imply that use or design is a defining characteristic. For example, the industry standards for pliers and wrenches describe them in terms of their physical features and not their use.

For assistance pursuing a classification issue through litigation, please contact Arthur Purcell at (202) 549-0131.

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