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Marking of Imports for Customs

Country of Origin Marking

United States customs laws require each imported article produced abroad to be marked in a conspicuous place as legibly, indelibly, and permanently as the nature of the article permits, with the English name of the country of origin, to indicate to the ultimate purchaser in the United States the name of the country in which the article was manufactured or produced. Articles which are otherwise specifically exempted from individual marking are an exception to this rule. The exceptions are discussed below.

Marking Required

If the article (or the container when the container and not the article must be marked) is not properly marked at the time of importation, a marking duty equal to 10 percent of the customs value of the article will be assessed unless the article is exported, destroyed, or properly marked under Customs supervision before the liquidation of the entry concerned.

It is not feasible to state who will be the "ultimate purchaser" in every circumstance. Broadly stated, an "ultimate purchaser" may be defined as the last person in the United States who will receive the article in the form in which it was imported. Generally, if an imported article will be used in the United States in manufacture that results in an article having a name, character or usage different from that of the imported article, the manufacturer is the ultimate purchaser. If an article is to be sold at retail in its imported form, the purchaser at retail is the ultimate purchaser. A person who subjects an imported article to a process which results in a substantial transformation of the article is the ultimate purchaser, but if the process is merely a minor one which leaves the identity of the imported article intact, the processor of the article will not be regarded as the ultimate purchaser.

When an article (or its container) is required to be marked to indicate its country of origin, the marking is sufficiently permanent if it will remain on the article (or its container) until it reaches the ultimate purchaser. When an article is of a kind which is usually combined with another article subsequent to importation but before delivery to an ultimate purchaser, and the name indicating the article's country of origin appears in a place on the article so that the name will be visible after such combining, the marking shall include, in addition to the name of the country of origin, words or symbols which clearly show that the origin indicated is that of the imported article only and not that of any other article with which the imported article may be combined after importation. For example, if marked bottles, drums, or other containers are imported empty, to be filled in the United States, they shall be marked with such words as "Bottle (or drum or container) made in (name of country)." Labels and similar articles so marked that the name of the article's country of origin is visible after it is affixed to another article in this country shall be marked with additional descriptive words such as "label made (or printed) in (name of country)" or words of similar import.

In any case in which the words "United States" or "American" or the letters "U.S.A." or any variation of such words or letters, or the name of any city or locality in the United States, or the name of any foreign country or locality in which the article was not manufactured or produced, appear on an imported article or container, and those words, letters, or names may mislead or deceive the ultimate purchaser about the actual country of the origin of the article, there shall also appear, legibly and permanently, in close proximity to such words, letters or name, the name of the country of origin preceded by the words "made in," "product of," or other words of similar meaning.

If marked articles are to be repacked in the United States after release from Customs custody, importers must certify on entry that they will not obscure the marking on properly marked articles if the article is repacked or that they will mark the repacked container. If the importers do not repack, but resell to repackers, importers must notify the repackers of the marking requirements. Failure to comply with the certification requirements may subject importers to penalties and/or additional duties.

Marking not Required

The following articles and classes or kinds of articles are not required to be marked to indicate the country of their origin, i.e., the country in which they were grown, manufactured, or produced. However, the outermost containers in which these articles ordinarily reach the ultimate purchaser in the United States must be marked to indicate the English name of the country of origin of the articles.

Art, works of. Articles classified subheads 9810.00.15, 9810.00.25, 9810.00.40, and9810.00.45, HTSUS.
Articles entered in good faith as antiques and rejected as unauthentic.
Bagging, waste.
Bags, jute.
Bands, steel.
Beads, unstrung.
Bearings, ball, 5/8-inch or less in diameter.
Blanks, metal, to be plated.
Bodies, harvest hat.
Bolts, nuts, and washers.
Briarwood, in blocks.
Briquettes, coal or coke.
Buckles, 1 inch or less in greatest dimension.
Burlap.
Buttons.
Cards, playing.
Cellophane and celluloid in sheets, bands, or strips.
Chemicals, drugs, medicinals, and similar substances, when imported in capsules, pills, tablets, lozenges, or troches.
Cigars and cigarettes.
Covers, straw bottle.
Dies, diamond wire, unmounted.
Dowels, wooden.
Effects, theatrical.
Eggs.
Feathers.
Firewood.
Flooring, not further manufactured than planed, tongued and grooved.
Flowers, artificial, except bunches.
Flowers, cut.
Glass, cut to shape and size for use in clocks, hand, pocket, and purse mirrors, and other glass of similar shapes and size, not including lenses or watch crystals.
Glides, furniture, except glides with prongs.
Hairnets.
Hides, raw.
Hooks, fish (except snelled fish hooks).
Hoops (wood), barrel.
Laths.
Livestock.
Lumber, except finished.
Lumber, sawed.
Metal bars except concrete reinforcement bars, billets, blocks, blooms, ingots, pigs, plates, sheets, except galvanized sheets, shafting, slabs, and metal in similar forms.
Mica not further manufactured than cut or stamped to dimension, shape, or form.
Monuments.
Nails, spikes, and staples.
Natural products, such as vegetables, fruit, nuts, berries, and live or dead animals, fish and birds; all the foregoing which are in their natural state or not advanced in any manner further than is necessary for their safe transportation.
Nets, bottle wire.
Paper, newsprint.
Paper, stencil.
Paper, stock.
Parchment and vellum.
Parts, for machines imported from same country as parts.
Pickets (wood).
Pins, tuning.
Plants, shrubs, and other nursery stock. Plugs, tie.
Poles, bamboo.
Posts (wood), fence.
Pulpwood.
Rags (including wiping rags).
Rails, joint bars, and tie plates of steel.
Ribbon.
Rivets.
Rope, including wire rope, cordage, cords, twines, threads, and yarns.
Scrap and waste.
Screws.
Shims, track.
Shingles (wood), bundles of, except bundles of red-cedar shingles.
Skins, fur, dressed or dyed.
Skins, raw fur.
Sponges.
Springs, watch.
Stamps, postage and revenue, and government-stamped envelopes and postal cards bearing no printing other than the official imprint thereon.
Staves (wood), barrel.
Steel, hoop.
Sugar, maple.
Ties (wood), railroad.
Tiles, not over 1 inch in greatest dimension.
Timbers, sawed.
Tips, penholder.
Trees, Christmas.

Unless an article being shipped to the United States is specifically named in the foregoing list, it would be advisable for an exporter to obtain advice from U.S. Customs before concluding that it is exempted from marking. If articles on the foregoing list are repacked in the United States, the new packages must be labeled to indicate the country of origin of the articles contained therein. Importers must certify on entry that, if they repackage, they will properly mark the repackaged containers; if they do not package, but resell to repackagers, notification of the marking requirements will be given to such repackagers. Failure to comply with the certification requirements may subject importers to penalties and marking duties.

Other Exceptions

The following classes of articles are also excepted from marking to indicate the country of their origin. (The usual container in which one of these articles is imported will also be excepted from marking.)

  • An article imported for use by the importer and not intended for sale in its imported or any other form.
  • An article which is to be processed in the United States by the importer or for his account otherwise than for the purpose of concealing the origin of the article and in such manner that any mark of origin would necessarily be obliterated, destroyed, or permanently concealed.
  • An article with respect to which an ultimate purchaser in the United States, by reason of the character of the article, or by reason of the circumstances of its importation, must necessarily know the country of origin even though the article is not marked to indicate its origin. The clearest application of this exemption is when the contract between the ultimate purchaser in the United States and the supplier abroad insures that the order will be filled only with articles grown, manufactured, or produced in a named country.
  • Weights, analytical and precision, in sets. Wicking, candle. Wire, except barbed.
  • The following classes of articles are also excepted from marking to indicate the country of their origin:

    • Articles that are incapable of being marked.
    • Articles that cannot be marked prior to shipment to the United States without injury.
    • Articles that cannot be marked prior to shipment to the United States, except at an expense economically prohibitive of their importation.
    • Articles for which the marking of the containers will reasonably indicate the origin of the articles.
    • Crude substances.
    • Articles produced more than 20 years prior to their importation into the United States.
    • Articles entered or withdrawn from warehouse for immediate exportation or for transportation and exportation.

    Although such articles are exempted from marking to indicate their country of origin, the outermost containers in which the articles will ordinarily reach the ultimate purchaser in the United States must be marked to show the country of origin of such articles.

    When marking the article's container will reasonably indicate the article's country of origin, the article itself may be exempt from such marking. This exemption applies only when the articles will reach the ultimate purchaser in an unopened container. For example, articles which reach the retail purchaser in sealed containers marked clearly to indicate the country of origin come within this exception. Materials to be used in building or manufacture by the builder or manufacturer who will receive the materials in unopened cases likewise come within the exemption. The following articles, as well as their containers, are excepted from marking to indicate the country of their origin:

  • Products of American fisheries that are free of duty.
  • Products of possessions of the United States.
  • Products of the United States exported and returned.
  • Articles valued at not more than $200 (or $100 for bona fide gifts) that are passed without entry.
  • Special country-of-origin marking rules for goods of a NAFTA country are addressed in Customs publication No. 571, NAFTA: A Guide to Customs Procedures.

    Special Marking Requirements

    The country of origin marking requirements are separate and apart from any special marking or labeling required on specific products by other agencies. It is recommended that the specific agency be contacted for any special marking or labeling requirements.

    Certain articles are subject to special country of origin marking requirements: Iron and steel pipe and pipe fittings; manhole rings, frames, or covers; and compressed gas cylinders must generally be marked by one of four methods: die-stamped, cast-in-mold lettering, etching (acid or electrolytic) or engraving. In addition, none of the exceptions from marking discussed above are applicable to iron and steel pipe and pipe fittings.

    The following articles and parts thereof shall be marked legibly and conspicuously to indicate their origin by die-stamping, cast-in-the-mold lettering, etching (acid or electrolytic), engraving, or by means of metal plates that bear the prescribed marking and that are securely attached to the article in a conspicuous place by welding, screws, or rivets:
    Knives, clippers, shears, safety razors, surgical instruments, scientific and laboratory instruments, pliers, pincers, and vacuum containers.

    Watch movements are required to be marked on one or more of the bridges or top plates to show (1) the name of the country of manufacture, (2) the name of the manufacturer or purchaser, and (3) in words, the number of jewels, if any, serving a mechanical purpose as frictional bearings.

    Clock movements shall be marked on the most visible part of the front or back plate to show (1) the name of the country of manufacture, (2) the name of the manufacturer or purchaser, and (3) the number of jewels, if any.

    Watch cases shall be marked on the inside or outside of the back cover to show (1) the name of the country of manufacture, and (2) the name of the manufacturer or purchaser.

    Clock cases and other cases provided for in Chapter 91, HTSUS, are required to be marked on the most visible part of the outside of the back to show the name of the country of manufacture.

    The terms "watch movement" and "clock movement" refer to devices regulated by a balance wheel and hairspring, quartz crystal, or any other system capable of determining intervals of time, with a display or system to which a mechanical display can be incorporated. "Watch movements" include devices that do not exceed 12 mm in thickness and 50 mm in width, length, or diameter; "clock movements" include devices that do not meet the watch movement dimensional specifications. The term "cases" includes inner and outer cases, containers, and housings for movements, together with parts or pieces, such as, but not limited to, rings, feet, posts, bases, and outer frames, and any auxiliary or incidental features, which (with appropriate movements) serve to complete the watches, clocks, time switches, and other apparatus provided for in Chapter 91, HTSUS.

    Articles required to be marked in accordance with the special marking requirements in Chapter 91 must be conspicuously and indelibly marked by cutting, die-sinking, engraving, stamping, or mold-marking. Articles required to be so marked shall be denied entry unless marked in exact conformity with these requirements.

    Movements with opto-electronic display only and cases designed for use therewith, whether entered as separate articles or as components of assembled watches or clocks, are not subject to the special marking requirements. These items need only be marked with the marking requirements of 19 U.S.C. 1304.

    Parts of any of the foregoing not including those above mentioned.

    In addition to the special marking requirements set forth above, all watches of foreign origin must comply with the usual country of origin marking requirements. Customs considers the country of origin of watches to be the country of manufacture of the watch movement. The name of this country should appear either on the outside back cover or on the face of the dial.

    Title IV of the Tariff Suspension and Trade Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-476), also known as the Imported Cigarette Compliance Act of 2000, imposes special requirements on the importation of cigarettes and other tobacco products. Importers of cigarettes or other tobacco products are urged to contact the United States port of entry at which their merchandise will arrive for information about the new requirements.

    Marking — False Impression

    Section 42 of the Trademark Act of 1946 (15 U.S.C. 1124) provides, among other things, that no imported article of foreign origin which bears a name or mark calculated to induce the public to believe that it was manufactured in the United States, or in any foreign country or locality other than the country or locality in which it was actually manufactured, shall be admitted to entry at any customhouse in the United States.

    In many cases, the words "United States," the letters "U.S.A.," or the name of any city or locality in the United States appearing on an imported article of foreign origin, or on the containers thereof, are considered to be calculated to induce the public to believe that the article was manufactured in the United States unless the name of the country of origin appears in close proximity to the name which indicates a domestic origin.

    Merchandise discovered after conditional release to have been missing a required country of origin marking may be ordered redelivered to Customs custody. If such delivery is not promptly made, liquidated damages may be assessed against the Customs bond. (See 19 CFR 141.113[a]; cf., 19 CFR Part 172 and Customs Form 4647.)

    An imported article bearing a name or mark prohibited by Section 42 of the Trademark Act is subject to seizure and forfeiture. However, upon the filing of a petition by the importer prior to final disposition of the article, the port director of Customs may release it upon the condition that the prohibited marking be removed or obliterated or that the article and containers be properly marked; or the port director may permit the article to be exported or destroyed under Customs supervision and without expense to the government.

    Section 43 of the Trademark Act of 1946 (15 U.S.C. 1125) prohibits the entry of goods marked or labeled with a false designation of origin or with any false description or representation, including words or other symbols tending to falsely describe or represent the same. Deliberate removal, obliteration, covering, or altering of required country-of-origin markings after release from Customs custody is also a crime punishable by fines and imprisonment (19 U.S.C. 1304[1]).

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