This action involves the proper classification of plastic figures described as "G.I.
A relatively full description of the imported articles is needed in order to understand the nature of the merchandise and its proper classification. All the figures are made of plastic, are approximately 3½ inches tall, and have the appearance of human beings dressed and equipped in a manner associated with actual or fictional warfare. They are noticeably lifelike and constructed in a manner which permits an impressive range of movement. The head turns from side to side, the arms are jointed at the shoulder and elbow and also have a rotational joint above the elbow and a rotational capacity in the shoulder. They can turn at the waist and also bend slightly in all directions from the waist. The legs have a wide range of movement at the hip and sufficient bending action in the knees to allow the figure to kneel or sit. The articulated joints maintain the position in which they are placed by manipulation.
The Court will further describe a number of representative figures. The figure named "Sergeant" has the appearance of a white male with blond hair, wearing khaki pants, brown boots and tan shirt. In molded relief, a knife is strapped to his left boot, a pistol is strapped to his right thigh and a bandolier, to which a grenade is attached, crosses his chest. As imported, the figure occupies a clear plastic blister which is mounted on a large card. The blister also contains separate plastic pieces representing binoculars, a helmet, an assault pack, and an M-32 sub-machine gun. These accessories are designed to fit on the figure or to be held in the hands, which, incidentally, by virtue of their shape and material, have a gripping capability. The portion of the package card which is not occupied by the blister displays a dramatic portrait of the "Sergeant" in a heroic posture, holding the sub-machine gun in his left hand, the helmet in his right, and framed by an explosion of yellow and red behind him. At the top of the front of the card, appears the logo "G.I. JOE" in its characteristic form in which a star appears between the "I" and the "J" and strong red, white, and blue lines continue the horizontal lines of the letter "E." Under that is the designation "A Real American Hero." On the back of the card the upper half is devoted to 32 small reproductions of various "action figures" under the caption saying "Collect G.I. Joe Vehicles, Weapons, Figures & Cobra Command (The Enemy Army)." On the bottom half of the card's back is a simulation of a file card devoted to the "Sergeant" figure. It contains a picture of him from the waist up and the following informational material:
Another figure is entitled "Heavy Machine Gunner" with the code name "Roadblock." This is a figure of a shaven-headed black male with mustache and goatee, wearing beige pants, black boots, and a brief camouflaged shirt which exposes the upper chest and arms. Molded on the figure are a knife strapped to the right leg, a pistol on the left thigh and a black belt with shoulder straps. The accessories for this figure include a backpack, an M-2X machine gun with tripod, an "ammo" box and a helmet. The portrait of the front of the card shows the figure springing forward with the heavy machine gun gripped in both hands against a background of the explosive white, yellow and red coloration. The file information for this figure reads as follows:
The next figure selected for description has the name "Medic." This is a black male dressed in a beige jumpsuit with a red cross showing on the right arm and the chest. Molded on the figure, a pistol, (possibly for shooting flares only), is strapped to the right thigh. This figure comes with a helmet, a stretcher, and a rescue flare launcher, a piece of equipment which has the look of a grenade launcher. The portrait next to the figure shows "Medic" against the explosive background of white, yellow and red, kneeling in readiness to launch a rescue flare. The file for "Medic" reads as follows:
The third figure selected for description is designated "Counter Intelligence." This is a white female with red hair, wearing what appears to be a beige, one-piece bathing suit, together with beige boots and gloves over black tights. Molded on the figure is a knife on the left thigh, what is possibly a small explosive device on the right thigh, a grenade on the left shoulder, a small pistol on the inside of the right forearm, and what appears to be two "throwing stars" (a type of weapon associated with Japanese "ninja") on the exterior of the left glove. The figure comes with a
The next figure is entitled "Tracker." This is a male of light coloration with black hair held by a headband and formed into two long braids, suggestive of the hair style of certain Native Americans. This figure is dressed in beige pants with a suggestion of leather fringe on the outside seams, a blue shirt and brown boots. The figure has a hunting knife on its shirt and another one on its left thigh. Its accessories include an arrow cassette pack, an auto-arrow launcher, a green belt from which a red loin cloth hangs in the front and back, and a small plastic model of an American eagle. The portrait on the front shows "Tracker" bending on one knee with the arrow launcher held in one hand against the explosive background of white, yellow and red. The file for this figure reads as follows:
Representative of the "Enemy" figures are the following: The "Cobra Commander" is a figure dressed entirely in blue with black gloves and black shoes and a face concealed entirely by a silver visor. A knife is shown as strapped to the left thigh and the accessory "venom" laser pistol fits into a specially shaped recess on the back of the figure. The portrait on the front of the package shows the Cobra Commander holding the venom pistol in his right hand and gesturing towards the viewer with his left hand. The file material for Cobra Commander reads as follows:
The final figure to be described is a member of the enemy group named "Cobra Intelligence Officer." This is a white female with black hair and black horn-rimmed glasses, wearing what appears to be a form-fitting suit of black armor. A pistol is attached to the right thigh and the accessories are a backpack with a decorative relief of a hooded cobra, and a high-density laser rifle. The portrait on the front shows the figure holding the rifle in the right hand and making a fist with the left hand. The file for this figure reads as follows:
Examination of these exhibits as well as the remaining samples of the importations, which were equally distinctive, has led the Court to find that these figures come within the common meaning of the term "doll."
It is the opinion of the Court that the term "doll" as used in the Tariff Schedules of the United States, has a common meaning which is broad enough to cover all those distinctive representations of human figures with which children play. The most disinterested source for determining the common meaning of a tariff term such as "dolls" is that provided by lexicographic authorities. In this regard, the dictionaries referred to by the Court invariably define the word doll as a representation of a human being used as a child's plaything. This, in itself, is virtually decisive.
It is also clear that the judicial decisions interpreting the term "doll" as used in the tariff schedules, while they have not been able to arrive at a perfect definition of the term, have almost without exception given a broad scope to the term. In United States v. Butler Bros., 180 F. 1005 (1910) the court adopted a definition of dolls as representational puppets, which definition included the fact that the representation was occasionally as a soldier. In Lewis Wolf & Co., Inc. v. United States, 15 Cust.Ct. 156, C.D. 963 (1945) the court expressed its opinion that the common meaning of the term dolls was sufficiently comprehensive to include all dolls, whether or not they were used as children's playthings. See also United States v. Cody Mfg. Co., Inc. et al., 44 CCPA 67, 74 C.A.D. 639 (1957); Janex Corp. v. United States, 80 Cust.Ct. 146, 152, C.D. 4748 (1978); Russ Berrie & Co., Inc. v. United States, 76 Cust.Ct. 218, 225-226, C.D. 4659, 417 F.Supp. 1035 (1976); Brechner Bros. v. United States, 58 Cust.Ct. 272, 274, C.D. 2959 (1967). Brechner Bros. v. United States, 58 Cust.Ct. 272, 274, C.D. 2959 (1967).
Plaintiff argues generally that the case law does not establish an unvarying principle that all representations of human figures are dolls and further that these importation belong to a category of toy soldiers which are a type of article which does not come within the common meaning of the term doll. The first argument may be true but it does not benefit plaintiff because there are no cases in which playthings representing human being were held to be
This brings us to plaintiff's second argument that toy soldiers are not within the common meaning of dolls and that these "action figures" are the modern version of toy soldiers. The Court is of the opinion that, if indeed some toy soldiers are outside the ambit of "dolls", then it is only that traditional category of toy soldiers which are characterized by a predominant molded stiffness and which are sold and played with in mass quantities. Only in that way could they conceivably escape the broad reach of the term "doll." However, the individuality displayed by these importations, the degree of intimate and manipulative play which they invite as a result of their physical characteristics and mode of presentation, indicates to the Court that they are nothing at all like traditional toy soldiers.
The testimony offered at trial could not overcome the fundamental definition established by lexicographic common meaning and prior case law. Although it is clear that plaintiff does not use the word "doll" in the marketing of these figures, none of the plaintiff's witnesses could persuade the Court that this was a matter of basic definition. On the contrary, the evidence as a whole supports the conclusion that the emphasis on the term "action figure" is a conscious avoidance of the definitionally correct term "doll" and that when these articles are described in general publications in this society such as newspapers or magazines, or in specialized publications devoted to collectors of dolls, they are frequently referred to as "dolls."
In sum, the Court is of the opinion that these figures have been properly classified as "dolls" under Item 737.24 of the TSUS. Further, for what it is worth, the Court notes that this classification does not in any way detract from the respect which these figures deserve as representations of the human participants in the never-ending struggle between good and evil. Henceforth, each and every one of these figures must accept the fact that, for tariff purposes and by judicial decision, they must face the world as "real American dolls." Hopefully, they will meet this decision as to their tariff classification with courage and pride.
This case having been duly submitted for decision and the Court, after due deliberation, having rendered a decision herein; now in conformity with said decision,
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, ADJUDGED, and DECREED: that plaintiff's claim is hereby denied and the merchandise which is the subject of this action shall remain classified under the tariff provision assigned by the defendant.