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Taking no comfort in increased tariffs

Gaining fame through television commercials featuring people struggling with the simplest of tasks, the Snuggie provided a much-needed solution to overcome the nationwide challenge of covering oneself with a blanket.

Wear it.

However, not all problems can be solved with a wearable blanket or, in current parlance, a “slanket.” For the manufacturer, it has created headaches similar to those likely experienced by their consumers who once faced continuing struggles involving the pre-Snuggie navigation of their own covers.

No one will question the distinction between a run-of-the-mill blanket and an everyday garment. However, that difference could mean the amount in tariff charges Snuggie-producer Allstar Marketing must pay.

The Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) requires an 8.5% tariff on blankets. A determination by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) categorized Snuggies as “other garments, knitted or crocheted” and subject to a 14.9% tariff.

After losing an appeal to the CBP in 2012, Allstar sued the government in the U.S. Court of International Trade, arguing that mis-categorization of Snuggies led to higher import charges.

The government cited precedent set by a recent ruling by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. In Rubie’s Costume v. U.S., wearable apparel is defined as items that provide “decency, comfort, adornment or protection” to the wearer. Under that definition, the defendant argued that the Snuggie is a garment that covers the human body and worn for comfort.

The “slanket” maker argued that providing comfort is not sufficient to define it as a garment. Under that argument, sheets, blankets and space heaters could also qualify for that designation.

A less-effective contention by the government involved comparisons to the wide-armed sleeves and loose flowing of “clerical or ecclesiastical garments and vestments” and “professional or scholastic gowns and robes.” The court countered that their analogy would only hold if a consumer wore the Snuggie backwards.

In the end, the U.S. Court of International Trade ruled against Allstar, claiming that their own marketing undermined their argument. While the Snuggie is indeed the first sleeve-blanket hybrid on the market, Allstar’s tagline promotes it as, “The Blanket That Has Sleeves!”

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