Monday, February 13, 2017
In 1988, the U.S. Court of International Trade was faced with a tariff classification dispute as to whether G.I. Joe "Action Figures" were classifiable under the Tariff Schedules of the United States as "other dolls" dutiable at various rates depending upon the date of importation, or whether they could be imported duty free under the Generalized System of Preferences as "toy figures of animate objects."
The Court of International Trade ruled that the plain meaning of the word "doll" covered all distinctive representations of human figures with which children play. After describing each of the figures in some (pretty humorous) detail, the court ruled that the G.I. Joe figures were classifiable as dolls and were subject to customs duty.
In reaching that decision, the Court of International Trade said:
for what it is worth, the Court notes that this [tariff] classification does not in any way detract from the respect which these figures deserve 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.
Hasbro Industries, Inc. v. United States, 703 F. Supp. 941, 946 (Ct. Int'l Trade 1988). The decision was upheld on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.