Court Upholds Classification of Pull-On Boots as Slip-On Footwear
The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has affirmed a lower court decision in Deckers Outdoor Corp. v. U.S. that the UGG Classic Crochet model boot is classifiable as other slip-on footwear under HTSUS 6404.19.35 (37.5% duty). Deckers had sought classification as footwear with outer soles of rubber or plastics valued at over $12 per pair under HTSUS 6404.19.90 (9% duty).
The boots at issue have a rubber sole and a knit upper that has no laces, buckles or other fasteners. To don the boots, a wearer must grip the top of the woven textile upper with two hands, insert the foot into the opening and pull the boot up forcefully while adjusting the foot until the foot and calf are securely ensconced in the boot with the heel properly set.
Deckers argued that the phrase “footwear of the slip-on type” only applies to shoes and not boots and that because the subject boots must be pulled on they do not qualify as slip-on footwear. The court rejected these claims, stating that HTSUS 6404.19.35 specifically refers to footwear and that this term plainly encompasses both shoes and boots. The court also notes that Footwear Definitions, a document used by U.S. Customs and Border Protection import specialists in classifying footwear, provides that the term “slip-on” includes boots that must be pulled on. Further, CBP has consistently classified boots without laces or other fasteners as slip-on footwear.
However, a dissenting justice opined that the term “footwear of the slip-on type” has a common and commercial meaning that includes three limitations: the item must be a shoe (i.e., not a high-cut boot), must be easy to slip on and must have few or no fasteners. This justice also stated that Footwear Definitions merely “asserts by fiat” that pull-on boots are classifiable as slip-on footwear and provides no reasoning for that determination, rendering it unpersuasive and therefore not warranting judicial deference.