CBP (and the Court of International Trade) regularly distinguishes between provisions in the HTSUS which are controlled by use (“use” provisions) and those that are controlled by name (“eo nomine” provisions).  In Irwin Industrial Tool Company v. United States, the Court of International Trade illustrated this common issue.

In Irwin, the importer entered various hand tools described as “large jaw locking pliers,” “curved jaw locking pliers,” “long nose locking pliers with wire cutter,” and “curved jaw locking pliers with wire cutter.”  CBP liquidated the tools under 8204.12.00 as (in short) a “wrench.”

However, the importer filed protests, arguing that the hand tools were not classified as wrenches and were classified in various other provisions in Chapter 82 as either (in short) “pliers,” or “vises, clamps and the like.”

In settling the matter, the Court looked to various definitions to determine the common and commercial meaning for “wrenches,” “pliers,” and “vises, clamps and the like.” Next, in clarifying the difference between use and eo nomine provisions, the Court stated that even when a provision appears to be an eo nomine one, it “must consider whether use is implicated” (meaning what looked like an eo nomine provision at first may turn out to be a use provision).

The Court explained that various words indicate an HTSUS provision is a use provision including words such as “use,” “for,” or “of a kind.”  In addition, the Section, Chapter, or Explanatory notes may indicate that the use of an article outweighs the physical characteristics.  The Court held that the HTSUS provisions for “wrenches,” “pliers,” and “vises, clamps and the like” were all eo nomine provisions.  In simple terms, just because an object “wrenches” or “clamps” doesn’t mean it is classified as a “wrench” or a “clamp.”  You need to determine if the HTSUS provision is covered by name or use.

We highly recommend keeping issues like this in mind when classifying goods. While a tariff term may seem simple at first glance, there may be hidden issues lurking under the surface. If you have any questions regarding classification, eo nomine, or use provisions, please give us a call and we will be glad to help.