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Sigvaris, Inc. v. United States

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

August 16, 2018

SIGVARIS, INC., Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
UNITED STATES, Defendant-Appellee

          Appeal from the United States Court of International Trade in No. 1:11-cv-00532-JCG, Judge Jennifer Choe-Groves.

          John Michael Peterson, Neville Peterson LLP, New York, NY, argued for plaintiff-appellant. Also represented by Russell Andrew Semmel.

          Alexander J. Vanderweide, International Trade Field Office, Commercial Litigation Branch, Civil Division, United States Department of Justice, New York, NY, argued for defendant-appellee. Also represented by Chad A. Readler, Jeanne E. Davidson, Amy Rubin; Beth C. Brotman, Office of the Assistant Chief Counsel, United States Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, United States Department of Homeland Security, New York, NY.

          Before Prost, Chief Judge, Dyk and O'Malley, Circuit Judges.

          O'Malley, Circuit Judge.

         Sigvaris, Inc. ("Sigvaris") appeals the judgment of the United States Court of International Trade in which the court found that the subject merchandise is not classified as duty free under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States ("HTSUS")[1] subheading 9817.00.96 as articles specially designed for the use or benefit of physically handicapped persons. Sigvaris, Inc. v. United States, 227 F.Supp.3d 1327 (Ct. Int'l Trade 2017). Although the Court of International Trade erred in its analysis, we conclude that it reached the correct result. We therefore affirm its holding that the subject merchandise does not qualify for duty-free treatment under HTSUS subheading 9817.00.96.

         I. Background

         A. The Subject Merchandise

         Sigvaris is the owner and importer of record of the subject merchandise. The specific goods at issue are graduated compression hosiery from three product lines- the 120 Support Therapy Sheer Fashion series for women, the 145 Support Therapy Classic Dress series for women, and the 185 Support Therapy Classic Dress series for men. All of the product lines exert 15-20 millimeters of mercury ("mmHg") of compression onto the wearer.

         The 120 series consists of a variety of models, including pantyhose, maternity pantyhose, thigh-high hosiery, calf-length hosiery, and calf-length hosiery with open toe. These models are "made of a combination of nylon and spandex, and in some products, also silicone." Id. at 1331. The 145 series and 185 series "are calf-length graduated support dress socks made of a combination of nylon and spandex." Id. at 1327. Graduated compression hosiery "when properly worn, forces pooled blood to circulate out of the leg and throughout the body." Appellant's Br. at 3.

         B. Customs's Classification

         Between September 2008 and November 2010, Sigvaris imported 105 entries of various graduated compression merchandise, including the subject merchandise, into the United States at the Port of Atlanta, in Georgia. Customs liquidated the entries between August 2009 and September 2011.

         Customs classified the subject merchandise as "[o]ther graduated compression hosiery: . . . [o]f synthetic fibers" under HTSUS subheading 6115.10.40 subject to a duty rate of 14.6% ad valorem. Id. at 1330.

         Sigvaris timely protested the classification of the subject merchandise, and sought "special classification" as duty free under HTSUS subheading 9817.00.96. That subheading states:

9817
Articles specially designed or adapted for the use or benefit of the blind or other physically or mentally handicapped persons; parts and accessories (except parts and accessories of braces and artificial limb prosthetics) that are ...

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