On December 18, 2009, the CIT issued its decision in Storewall, LLC v. United States in a dispute involving the proper classification of “Storewall” wall panels and “HangUp” locator tabs imported by Plaintiff Storewall, LLC (Storewall). The subject wall panels consisted of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic panels designed to accept an array of article holders and accessories, such as shelves, brackets, hooks and so forth.
CBP claimed that the wall panels and locator tabs were properly classified as other articles of plastics within HTSUS (2003) subheading 3926.90.98, dutiable at 5.3 percent ad valorem. Storewall claimed the wall panels should have been classified as other furniture of plastics within HTSUS (2003) subheading 9403.70.80 or, alternatively, as parts of other furniture within HTSUS (2003) subheading 9403.90.50, and that the locator tabs should have been classified as furniture parts within HTSUS (2003) subheading 9403.90.50, all at a free rate of duty. The CIT ultimately granted summary judgment in favor of the US Government.
In reaching its decision, the CIT first relied on Note 2(u) to Chapter 39 of the HTSUS, which provides that articles covered by Chapter 94 to the HTSUS, such as furniture, are not covered by Chapter 39. Accordingly, the CIT first evaluated whether the wall panels and locator tabs were properly classifiable as other “furniture and parts thereof” within HTSUS heading 9403, reasoning that, if they were, they were precluded from classification as articles of plastic within HTSUS heading 3926. Citing Note 2 to Chapter 94, the CIT explained that the items could only be classified within HTSUS heading 9403 if they were designed “for placing on the floor or ground,” or if the items constituted “cupboards, bookcases, other shelved furniture and unit furniture” designed “to be hung, to be fixed to the wall or to stand one on the other.” The items were not designed for placing on the floor or ground and, thus, the CIT concluded that they must constitute unit furniture “to be hung, to be fixed to the wall or to stand one on the other” to be classified within HTSUS heading 9403.
Combining dictionary definitions, Explanatory Note requirements, and the Brussels Nomenclature Committee Report, the CIT determined that “unit furniture” could be defined for purposes of the HTSUS as an item: “(a) fitted with other pieces to form a larger system or which is itself composed of smaller complementary items, (b) designed to be hung, to be fixed to the wall, or to stand one on the other or side by side, and (c) assembled together in various ways to suit the consumer’s individual needs to hold various objects or articles, but (d) exclud[ing] other wall fixtures such as coat, hat and similar racks, key racks, clothes brush hangers, and newspaper racks.”
Applying these criteria, the CIT found that the subject items did not always constitute unit furniture because consumers could choose to accessorize the wall panels only with hooks—rendering the combined unit an excluded rack—as opposed to shelves or baskets. Because a completed Storewall system did not always constitute unit furniture, the wall panels and locator tabs could not be classified as furniture or furniture parts within HTSUS heading 9403. As there was no dispute that the wall panels were made of PVC plastic and the locator tabs of ABS plastic, the CIT then concluded that the subject items were properly classified as other articles of plastic within HTSUS subheading 3926.90.98.