On June 1, 2010, the CIT issued its decision in Sparks Belting Co. v. United States, holding that CBP properly classified various conveyor belts imported by Sparks Belting Co. (Sparks) between March 2000 and September 2000. CBP classified the conveyor belts made of man-made fibers within HTSUS subheading 5910.00.10 at a duty rate of 5.6 percent ad valorem, and the conveyer belts made of other materials within HTSUS subheading 5910.00.90 at a rate of 3.6 percent ad valorem. Sparks claimed CBP misclassified the belts, which it argued should instead have been classified within HTSUS subheading 5903.10.15 and 5903.20.15, both at duty rates of 1.4 percent ad valorem.

The CIT ruled that Sparks’ submission of documentary exhibits in lieu of samples of subject merchandise was insufficient to meet its burden of proof. The CIT reasoned that the exhibits, while they included sworn affidavits and technical data sheets showing that Sparks’ products had been misclassified, did not include other necessary information about the products that samples would have contained. The CIT explained that “samples of the merchandise as imported would have conclusively determined classification due to the nature of the tariff provisions advanced here by Sparks. However, it is also true that the unavailability of physical samples is not a bar to recovery.” In this case, the CIT found that the documentation provided by Sparks did not contain the very specific information required by the relevant tariff provisions and chapter notes.