The US Court of International Trade has held that football pants, jerseys and girdles containing interior sleeves specifically designed to hold in place pads and other protective articles, but imported without these padding, are classifiable as articles of apparel under Chapter 61 or 62 of Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) and not under Chapter 95 as sports equipment.
The importer had contended that if the said goods are not themselves sports equipment, then they must qualify as parts or accessories to sports equipment and hence be classified under Chapter 95. But, the Customs department was of the view that the subject merchandise is properly classified as apparel because, as imported, the above goods are worn over the body, do not have any protective pads, and are made up of 100% man-made textiles.
The Court in its decision dated 20-3-2013, however, while classifying the said goods under Chapters 61 and 62, noted that whether an article is ‘required’ to play a given sport does not, by itself, make the article classifiable as sports equipment under Heading 9506 and that there are other characteristics of the merchandise that must be considered. It was observed that the goods imported in this case did not come bundled with, or otherwise incorporate any form of padding or protective inserts though specifically designed to accommodate various forms of protective padding for playing organized football and this design feature does not change their identity from “articles of apparel” to “sports equipment”.
The contention that the goods may be considered as parts of football equipment was also rejected by the court while it noted that pants, jerseys, and girdles are not constituent parts or essential elements of football pads as each of the subject articles is a stand-alone product capable of functioning independently, i.e., can be worn without the pads. It was also noted that although two types of merchandise - the subject goods and the football pads - are designed to be used together, that does not transform the subject merchandise into unassembled “parts” of football pads. Further, the goods were also held as not accessories as the goods as well as the pads serve a separate function and neither is secondary or subordinate to the other.