Much of law can be dry and mundane. However, there are moments when the law reaches a transcendent truth. There was the acceptance of war crimes in the Nuremberg trials. The recognition that separate is not equal in Brown. This week another milestone has been reached with a decision by Judge Mark Barnett of the United States Court of International Trade. Barnett has ruled that Snuggies are blankets and not apparel. The case is Allstar Mktg. Grp., LLC v. United States , Ct. Int’l Trade, 13-00395, 2/10/17.
The Justice Department argued that Snuggies are apparel and thus subject to higher taxes. The difference is considerable. If the Snuggie is apparel, the duty is 14.9 percent as opposed to 8.5 percent for blankets. The federal government wanted that added argued that the Snuggie is analogous to priestly vestments or scholastic robes. Those robes have wide sleeves and are loosely fitting. Barnett disagreed and based his distinction on the fact that the snuggle opens in the back. He also noted that Snuggies are packaged 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.” He therefore ruled against the Customs and Border Protection.
Of course, other advertisements show people wearing their Snuggies out and about town:
Nevertheless, the Court pointed out three key distinctions:
First, as to its physical characteristics and features, the Snuggie® consists of a 71-by-54 inch rectangular piece of polyester fleece knit fabric, with 28.5 inch sleeves attached to the front. . . . There is no closure, and it is open in the back. Pl.’s SOF ¶ 28; Def.’s Resp. to Pl.’s SOF ¶ 28. In camera inspection of the physical sample reveals a soft, long, loose-fitting article, measuring almost six feet by 4.5 feet, worn on the front, with long, loose sleeves. See Trans-Atlantic Co. v. United States, 60 C.C.P.A. 100 , 102-03 , 471 F.2d 1397 , 1398 (1973) (viewing a sample of the subject import before concluding that it is covered by an eo nomine provision for hinges) (“the sample of the imported merchandise . . . is itself a potent witness”). Defendant contends the “one size fits all” nature of the Snuggie® supports classifying it as a garment because “fit” is “characteristic of a specification for garments.” Def.’s XMSJ at 16. However, “fit” in the context of “one size fits all” is a misnomer, and merely conveys single size availability. Notwithstanding the presence of the loose-fitting sleeves, there is nothing “fitted” about the Snuggie®.The Snuggie®’s physical characteristics and features, such as its dimensions and lack of rear closure, do not resemble a “normal article of apparel,” or an article “ordinarily worn” in any “commonplace . . . way.”
Second, relevant to design and intended use, the Snuggie® was inspired by the “Slanket®” and the “Freedom Blanket,” two products that are marketed as blankets. Pl.’s SOF ¶ 10; Def.’s Resp. to Pl.’s SOF ¶ 10. As discussed above, inspection of the physical sample shows that the Snuggie® was designed (and, thus, intended) to be loosely worn as an outer layer roughly covering the front of the user to provide warmth. Compl., Ex. B. The Snuggie® was not designed and was not intended to be used as a “normal article of apparel” classifiable as a garment.
Finally, as to sales and marketing, Allstar referred to the Snuggie® as a blanket, not apparel, in discussions with the foreign vendor of the Snuggie®, and in purchase orders, specifications, and commercial and retail invoices. Additionally, Allstar obtained trademark protection to use the mark “Snuggie®” on fleece blankets and throws. Pl.’s SOF ¶ 14; Def.’s Resp. to Pl.’s SOF ¶ 14. The Snuggie® is sold in the “bedding, housewares, general merchandise, ‘impulse buy,’ or ‘as-seen-on-TV’ departments of retail stores,” not in the apparel department. Pl.’s SOF ¶¶ 23-24; Def.’s Resp. to Pl.’s SOF ¶¶ 23-24. Defendant contends that Allstar’s emphasis on the sleeves in marketing materials supports garment classification. Def.’s XMSJ at 16. However, retail packaging and television advertising consistently describe the Snuggie®, inter alia, as a blanket with sleeves. The marketing materials depict people using the Snuggie® as a warm cover, as one might use a blanket, albeit one held in place and permitting greater use of hands with the addition of the sleeves. See generally Compl., Ex. B; Def.’s Ex. D.
In sum, after considering the terms of the headings, relevant Section or Chapter Notes, Explanatory Notes, and the common commercial meaning of garment as stated in lexicographic sources and case law, the court finds the Snuggie® is not classifiable under subheading 6114.30.30. The court turns to whether the Snuggie® is classifiable under subheading 6301.40.00.
So there you have it. Of course, there remains that unanswered question of how anyone would allow themselves to be seen anywhere in a Snuggie . . . regardless of its legal designation.
Here is the opinion: Snuggie Opinion