Lakshmi Kumaran & Sridharan AttorneysAn ISO 9001 / 27001 certified law firm

Slip-on boots classifiable as footwear without fasteners

26th April, 2012

In an interesting ruling, the United States Court of International Trade, on 24th April, 2012, upheld the U.S. Customs’ classification of Classic Crochet boots under sub-heading 6404.19.35 of HTSUS. This heading covers “footwear of the slip-on type, that is held to the foot without the use of laces or buckles or other fasteners.”    

The plaintiff Deckers Outdoor Corp., had sought classification of the item under residual or basket provision 6404.19.90 as “other”.  During the material period, goods falling under sub-heading  6404.19.90 were dutiable at 9% adv. while those under 6404.19.35 were attracting duty of 37.5%.    

Both the parties agreed that impugned item was footwear intended to be worn on the foot and it was a boot with a rubber sole and knit upper that had no laces, buckles, or other fasteners to hold it to the foot. But the plaintiff argued that footwear must of slip-on type for classifying it under the heading sought by Customs and such category did not include boots.
After noting that dictionary meanings are similar to the definition of “slip-on” in the Customs publication, the court held that Customs definition is persuasive which centered around the characterization of slip-ons as footwear lacking functional fasteners. Elaborating further, it held that the term “slip-on” was not defined solely as a kind of shoe, but can refer to garments and gloves also. It said “the Court sees no reason to upset Customs’ considered and long-held definition of a slip-on as including a “boot which must be pulled on” and excluding “any boot or shoe with any laces, buckles, straps, snaps, or other closure.”    

The fact that a number of boots manufactured and sold by the plaintiff was commonly referred to as “slip-ons” on shopping websites, including party’s own website was also taken into account by the USCIT. It also underlined the rules of interpretation by stating that when choosing between a specific sub-heading and a basket provision, the basket provision may only be employed if the merchandise was not covered by the more specific sub-heading’s terms.
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