from the United States Court of International Trade in No.
1:09-cv-00327-MAB, Judge Mark A. Barnett.
B. Silverman, Grunfeld, Desiderio, Lebowitz, Silverman &
Klestadt LLP, New York, NY, argued for plaintiff-appellant.
Also represented by Alan R. Klestadt, Robert Fleming Seely.
Marcella Powell, International Trade Field Office, Commercial
Litigation Branch, Civil Division, United States Department
of Justice, New York, NY, argued for defendant-appellee. Also
represented by Amy Rubin, Jeanne E. Davidson, Benjamin C.
Mizer; Paula S. Smith, Office of the Assistant Chief Counsel,
United States Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, United
States Department of Homeland Security, New York, NY.
Newman, Mayer, and O'Malley, Circuit Judges.
Container Store appeals the final judgment of the United
States Court of International Trade ("Trade Court")
granting the government's motion for summary judgment and
concluding that imported elfa® top tracks and hanging
standards were properly classified under subheading
8302.42.30 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United
States ("HTSUS") as "[b]ase metal mountings,
fittings and similar articles suitable for furniture."
See Container Store v. United States, 145 F.Supp.3d
1331, 1348-49 (Ct. Int'l Trade 2016) ("Container
Store II"). Because we conclude that the subject
imports should instead be classified under HTSUS subheading
9403.90.80 as parts of unit furniture, we reverse and remand.
Container Store's top tracks and hanging standards are
two components of its elfa® modular storage and
organization system. See id. at 1333. Consumers can
assemble the different components of this system "in a
variety of configurations to create a customized, modular
storage unit." Id. The top tracks and hanging
standards, which are made of epoxy-bonded steel, see
id., "serve as the frame or support structure in a
complete elfa® system, " id. at 1344.
track has a flat back and is designed to be affixed
horizontally, using screws or anchors, to a vertical surface
such as a door or a wall. It has top and bottom edges that
"protrude and respectively bend downward and upward to
form the track's upper and lower lips." Id.
at 1333. A hanging standard, which has an open back and a
flat front with rows of evenly spaced slots, is suspended
vertically "from a top track by means of notches on the
top end of the standard that slide into the top track's
lower lip." Id. Consumers can attach various
additional elfa® components, such as baskets, drawers,
and shelves, to the hanging standards. Id. at 1334.
The top tracks and hanging standards are designed to be used
only with other elfa® system components. Id.
Container Store imported the elfa® top tracks and hanging
standards through the Port of Houston, Texas, in October 2007
and January 2008. See id. U.S. Customs and Border
Protection ("Customs") liquidated the subject
merchandise under subheading 8302.41.60, a provision for base
metal mountings and fittings suitable for buildings. The
Container Store filed timely protests challenging
Customs' classification, arguing that the subject
merchandise should instead be classified under subheading
9403.90.80 as parts of furniture. Customs denied these
protests, relying on a prior Customs ruling that had been
issued to The Container Store. See Cust. B. &
Dec. HQ 967149, 2004 U.S. CUSTOM HQ LEXIS 411, at *1 (Nov. 2,
2004) ("HQ 967149"). In that prior ruling, Customs
held that the elfa® top tracks and hanging standards at
issue were properly classified under subheading 8302.41.60 as
mountings suitable for buildings. Id. at *11,
*20-21. In declining to classify the merchandise under
subheading 8302.42.30 as mountings suitable for furniture,
Customs explained that "the top tracks and hanging
standards are not accessory items to be used with furniture,
" but "[i]nstead . . . form the structure of the
furniture." Id. at *17. Customs further
explained that "[s]tructural elements of furniture are
not mountings and fittings suitable for furniture" and
therefore cannot be classified under subheading 8302.42.30.
Id. The Container Store then appealed to the Trade
Court, which placed the appeal on its reserve calendar
pending resolution of another appeal filed by The Container
Store involving identical merchandise. See Container
Store v. United States, 800 F.Supp.2d 1329 (Ct.
Int'l Trade 2011) ("Container Store
Container Store I, Judge Ridgway granted The
Container Store's motion for summary judgment, concluding
that the elfa® top tracks and hanging standards at issue
were properly classified under subheading 9403.90.80 as parts
of unit furniture. Id. at 1336-38. Relying on this
court's decision in storeWALL, LLC v. United
States, 644 F.3d 1358 (Fed. Cir. 2011), Judge Ridgway
determined that the elfa® organization and storage
system, like the storeWALL organization and storage system,
"constitutes 'unit furniture, ' because it
consists of components that are fitted together with other
pieces to form a larger system, it is designed to be hung on
or fixed to a wall, and it is assembled together so as to
suit specific individual consumers' particular needs to
organize and store various objects or articles."
Container Store I, 800 F.Supp.2d at 1337. She
emphasized, moreover, that "it is the very versatility
and adaptability of systems such as the elfa® system and
the storeWALL system that render them unit furniture and
distinguish them from the run-of-the-mill coat, hat and
similar racks that are specifically excluded from
classification as furniture." Id. at 1338
(citations and internal quotation marks omitted). According
to Judge Ridgway, because the metal elfa® top tracks and
hanging standards, like the plastic wall panels and locator
tabs at issue in storeWALL, are "dedicated
solely for use with a completed" unit furniture system,
they are properly classified as parts of unit furniture under
heading 9403. Id. (citations and internal
quotation marks omitted).
Barnett reached a different conclusion with respect to the
classification of the elfa® top tracks and hanging
standards at issue in the present appeal. See Container
Store II, 145 F.Supp.3d at 1348-49. Judge Barnett
acknowledged that this court, in storeWALL, 644 F.3d
at 1363-64, held that the plastic wall panels and locator
tabs used in the storeWALL modular storage system were
properly classified under heading 9403 as parts of unit
furniture. See Container Store II, 145 F.Supp.3d at
1340-41. He further acknowledged that the "elfa® top
[tracks] and hanging standards are functionally equivalent to
the storeWALL system." Id. at 1344 (footnote
omitted). Judge Barnett noted, however, that "Chapter 94
Note 1(d) excludes parts of general use from Chapter 94,
while Section XV Note 2(c) specifically places parts of
general use into heading 8302, HTSUS." Id. at
1346. In Judge Barnett's view, because the elfa® top
tracks and hanging standards are parts of general use, they
are properly classified under heading 8302 and excluded from
heading 9403. Id. at 1349.
Container Store then appealed to this court. We have
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(5).
review the grant of summary judgment by the Trade Court de
novo. Airflow Tech., Inc. v. United States, 524 F.3d
1287, 1290 (Fed. Cir. 2008); Russell Stadelman & Co.
v. United States, 242 F.3d 1044, 1048 (Fed. Cir. 2001).
The proper interpretation of HTSUS headings and subheadings
is a question of law, reviewed without deference. Drygel,
Inc. v. United States, 541 F.3d 1129, 1133 (Fed. Cir.
2008); see also Warner-Lambert Co. v. United States,
407 F.3d 1207, 1209 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (emphasizing that