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By Brian Flood
Snuggies, the sleeved fleece coverings, should be classified as blankets for tariff purposes, not like robes or priestly vestments, a federal trade court ruled Feb. 10 ( Allstar Mktg. Grp., LLC v. United States , Ct. Int’l Trade, 13-00395, 2/10/17 ).
The court rejected the Justice Department’s argument that Snuggies are apparel and so should be subject to higher duties than blankets. The judge found it important that Snuggies open in the back and don’t have closures.
Snuggies are polyester fleece knits with sleeves that the manufacturer says keeps users warm while letting them use their hands freely. Beginning in late 2008, the product, and its infomercials, became a pop culture phenomenon, and the Snuggie was featured on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, Oprah, Ellen and The Today Show.
Judge Mark Barnett of the Court of International Trade held that Customs and Border Protection was wrong to classify Snuggies as garments. The judge noted in his opinion that the product is marketed as a blanket, rather than as clothing. For example, the packaging describes the Snuggie as “The Blanket With Sleeves!,” he said, and depicts consumers “in the types of situations one might use a blanket; for example, while seated or reclining on a couch or bed, or outside cheering a sports team.”
The addition of sleeves was not enough to turn the Snuggie into clothing, Barnett said. They simply allow the Snuggie “to remain in place and keep the user warm while allowing the user to engage in certain activities requiring the use of their hands,” he said.
The judge rejected the Justice Department’s attempt to compare the Snuggie to priestly vestments or scholastic robes, which also have wide-armed sleeves and flow loosely around the body. Barnett said that unlike robes, the Snuggie opens in the back, and unlike ecclesiastical garments, it don’t have closures.
The ruling means that instead of paying 14.9 percent duties when bringing Snuggies into the U.S., importers will only have to pay 8.5 percent duties.
Representatives from Allstar Marketing Group, which imports and sells the Snuggie, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Joseph M. Spraragen, Robert B. Silverman and Frank J. Desiderio of Grunfeld, Desiderio, Lebowitz, Silverman & Klestadt LLP, New York, represented plaintiff Allstar Marketing Group.
Hardeep K. Josan of the Justice Department’s Civil Division argued for defendant U.S.
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The court's opinion is available at http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/ALLSTAR_MARKETING_GROUP_LLC_Plaintiff_v_UNITED_STATES_Defendant_N.
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