Wilton Industries Inc., v. United States case caused a great deal of excitement in the import and legal communities. After all, provided that certain criteria are met, utilitarian articles were eligible for duty free treatment all these years, and the CBP official interpretation was, at best, misleading? The practical benefits, usually coming in the form of duty refunds, are marginal for those importers that are/were not directly involved in these cases. The commodities addressed in Wilton, would not qualify for chapter 95 if entered after February 3rd, 2007, the time when chapter 95 note 1 (v) came in force. Then, one has to consider limitation of Park B. Smith invoked by CBP on April 5th, 2006. It is very important to note, that the question of limitation had almost no mention in Wilton. In the slip opinion it is briefly noted that “neither party has relied in any way on Customs’ recent action seeking to limit the application of Park B. Smith to the entries before the courts in that case.” There are good reasons for no mention: your protests are likely to be denied on the basis of that limitation. With this in mind, the procedural timeline does not leave you a lot of room. Average entry liquidates in 314 days. Affected party can file a protest within 180 days after liquidation. As of the time of this writing, June 26, 2007, 447 days have passed since April 5th, 2006. That means, on average, your window of opportunity is only 47 days, as of today. In other words, goods with date of entry falling between February 17th, 2006 and April 5th, 2006, may be subject to the favorable outcome of the protest.
Apart from pessimistic timetable, Wilton case outlined some useful clarifications. Specifically, non-disposable goods associated with private special occasions fall within the festive scope.
Current criteria for festive qualification is that the article must be:
1) Closely associated with a festive occasion, and
2) Used or Displayed principally during that festive occasion, and
3) Its use on routine occasions would be “aberrant,” and
4) Article in question cannot be tableware, kitchenware, toilet articles, carpets and other textile floor coverings, apparel, bed linen, table linen, toilet linen, kitchen linen and similar articles having a utilitarian function
Commodity specific nuances are abundant. I highly suggest to, at least, become familiar with the following literature before seriously undertaking any festive classification project:
Wilton Industries Inc., v. United States
Park B. Smith
Midwest of Cannon Falls
Limitation of the application of the decisions of the Court of International Trade and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Park B. Smith v. United States
Guidance on the Classification of Festive Articles