On November 20, 2019, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) published in the Customs Bulletin and Decisions a proposal to limit, pursuant to 19 U.S.C. §1625(d) and 19 C.F.R. §177.10(d), the application of the decisions of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the Court of International Trade (“CIT”) in the case of Irwin Industrial Tool Company v. United States, 222 F. Supp. 3d 1210 (CIT 2017) (“Irwin I”), motion for reconsideration denied in 269 F. Supp. 3d 1294 (2017) (“Irwin II”), affirmed in 920 F. 3d 1356 (Fed. Cir. 2019), to the entries before the courts in that litigation (“Irwin III”) and to locking pliers identical in all material respects to the merchandise in those entries before the Court.

In all other cases, CBP will continue to define a wrench as a tool with a special ability to fixedly grasp an object and allow the user to exert a twisting or wrenching force. A wrench usually contains fixed and adapted jaws or sockets or adjustable jaws, one of which is fixed at the end of a lever for holding or turning a bolt, pipe, or other object. A wrench may have a second handle or lever which serves to lock and release the moveable jaw. Once locked, no force is needed to compress the handles. In the case of a chain pipe wrench or oil wrench, no jaws are necessary. Before making this decision final, consideration will be given to any written comments timely received on this matter before December 20, 2019.

Irwin involved the classification of several styles of hand tools, including straight jaw locking pliers, large jaw locking pliers, curved jaw locking pliers with and without wire cutters, and long nose locking pliers with wire cutters. Based on the function they perform and the manner in which they operate, CBP classified these tools as “wrenches” under heading 8204 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (“HTSUS”), and denied each of Irwin Tool Company’s (“Irwin”) protests to classify them as “pliers” under heading 8203, HTUS. Irwin then filed suit in the CIT, challenging CBP’s classification of the merchandise. The CIT denied CBP’s motion for summary judgment that the tools are properly classified as wrenches under heading 8204, HTSUS, and granted Irwin’s motion for summary judgment that the tools are properly classified as pliers under heading 8203, HTSUS.

For the reasons set forth in the Customs Bulletin and Decisions notice, CBP believes that the definition applied by the court unduly limits the scope of the term wrench and precludes articles that function as wrenches and are commonly and commercially known as wrenches from classification as wrenches.