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International Home Textile Inc. v. United States

September 02, 1998

INTERNATIONAL HOME TEXTILE, INC., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Michel, Plager, and Clevenger, Circuit Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michel, Circuit Judge

Appealed from: United States Court of International Trade

Senior Judge Dominick L. DiCarlo United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

International Home Textile, Inc. (International Home) appeals the judgment of the United States Court of International Trade in International Home Textile, Inc. v. United States, No. 97-31 (Ct. Int'l Trade Mar. 18, 1997), sustaining the United States Customs Service (Customs) classification of the subject merchandise under subheadings 6103.42.10 and 6105.10.00 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). This case was submitted for our decision following oral argument on August 4, 1998. Because we hold that the Court of International Trade did not erroneously interpret the tariff provisions relating to the importation of men's loungewear garments and did not clearly err in either its findings of fact concerning the principal uses of the garments or the correctness of the Customs classification, we affirm.

BACKGROUND

The material facts of this case are not in dispute. International Home, an importer of apparel products, imported various men's loungewear garments between 1993 and 1994. Upon importation, Customs classified certain of the garments as "[t]rousers, breeches and shorts" under HTSUS subheading 6103.42.10 and others as "[m]en's or boys' shirts" under HTSUS subheading 6105.10.00. The Customs classifications resulted in rates of duty equaling 17.1 percent ad valorem for those items classified as trousers and shorts and 21 percent for those items classified as shirts. International Home challenged these classifications in the Court of International Trade asserting that all of the garments are properly classifiable as "similar articles" under HTSUS heading 6107. International Home's preferred classification is under HTSUS subheading 6107.91.0040 which mainly describes robes and dressing gowns and has a corresponding duty of 9.3 percent. Alternatively, International Home asserts that the proper classification is HTSUS subheading 6107.21.00 which mainly describes pajamas and other nightwear and has a corresponding duty of 9.5 percent. After a trial on the merits, the Court of International Trade upheld the Customs classifications and entered judgment for the United States. The reader is referred to the comprehensive opinion of the trial court for further details.

International Home timely appealed to this court. We have jurisdiction to hear this appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(5) (1994). Although the judgment appealed from is more than sixteen months old, the appeal was not ready for argument and submission until August 1998. *fn1

Discussion

Determining whether imported merchandise has been properly classified involves a two-step process. See Sports Graphics, Inc. v. United States, 24 F.3d 1390, 1391 (Fed. Cir. 1994). The first step involves "ascertaining the proper meaning of specific terms in the tariff provision."

Id.

Our review is de novo for legal correctness. The second step presents a question of fact:

"determining whether the merchandise at issue comes within the description of such terms as properly construed."

Id.

Here, our review is for clear error. The ultimate question as to whether the merchandise has been properly classified, however, remains a question of law. See id.; see also Bausch & Lomb, Inc. v. United States, --- F.3d ---, 1998 WL ...


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