The Court of International Trade has ruled that a flexible material intended for use in pharmaceutical product and medical device packaging is properly classified as other backed aluminum foil under HTSUS 7607.20.50. This material consists of thin, soft-tempered aluminum foil with a heat-sealable coating on one side and plastic film lamination printed with product, brand, weight, and usage instructions on the reverse.

The CIT rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the material should be classified as other printed matter under HTSUS 4911.88.80. The plaintiff said the printing is indispensable to the product’s use and that its communicative purpose predominates over its function as a packaging material, and also argued that the product has been transformed through printing from backed foil into printed matter. However, the court determined that while customers could not use the product without the printing and would reject the product if the printing were wrong or damaged, the essential function of the product is to provide an impermeable protective barrier for the packaging of pharmaceutical products, not to label them.

The CIT also determined U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s classification of the product as backed aluminum foil covered or decorated with a character, design, fancy effect, or pattern under HTSUS 7607.20.10 to be in error. The court agreed with the plaintiff that this subheading is meant to include only printing that is decorative in nature, not communicative text, and rejected CBP’s argument that the repetition of product information across the uncut roll on which the packaging materials are printed and imported represents a repeating design or pattern that covers or decorates the products.

For more information on this decision or other tariff classification issues, please contact attorney Deb Stern at (305) 894-1007 or via email.

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