Federal Trade Commission
The Federal Trade Commission ("FTC" or "Commission") is issuing this statement to provide guidance regarding its enforcement policy with respect to the use of "Made in USA" and other U.S. origin claims in advertising and labeling. The Commission has determined, as explained below, that unqualified U.S. origin claims should be substantiated by evidence that the product is all or virtually all made in the United States. This statement is intended to elaborate on principles set out in individual cases and advisory opinions previously issued over the course of many years by the Commission. This statement, furthermore, is the culmination of a comprehensive process in which the Commission has reviewed its standard for evaluating U.S. origin claims. Throughout this process, the Commission has solicited, and received, substantial public input on relevant issues. The Commission anticipates that from time to time, it may be in the public interest to solicit further public comment on these issues and to assess whether the views expressed in this statement continue to be appropriate and reflect consumer perception and opinion, and to determine whether there are areas on which the Commission could provide additional guidance.
The principles set forth in this enforcement policy statement apply to U.S. origin claims included in labeling, advertising, other promotional materials, and all other forms of marketing, including marketing through digital or electronic means such as the Internet or electronic mail. The statement, moreover, articulates the Commission's enforcement policy with respect to U.S. origin claims for all products advertised or sold in the United States, with the exception of those products specifically subject to the country-of-origin labeling requirements of the Textile Fiber Products Identification Act,(1) the Wool Products Labeling Act,(2) or the Fur Products Labeling Act.(3) With respect to automobiles or other passenger motor vehicles, nothing in this enforcement policy statement is intended to affect or alter a marketer's obligation to comply with the requirements of the American Automobile Labeling Act(4) or regulations issued pursuant thereto, and any representation required by that Act to appear on automobile labeling will not be considered a deceptive act or practice for purposes of this enforcement policy statement, regardless of whether the representation appears in labeling, advertising or in other promotional material. Claims about the U.S. origin of passenger motor vehicles other than those representations required by the American Automobile Labeling Act, however, will be governed by the principles set forth in this statement.
Both the FTC and the U.S. Customs Service have responsibilities related to the use of country-of-origin claims. While the FTC regulates claims of U.S. origin under its general authority to act against deceptive acts and practices, foreign-origin markings on products (e.g., "Made in Japan") are regulated primarily by the U.S. Customs Service ("Customs" or "the Customs Service") under the Tariff Act of 1930. Specifically, Section 304 of the Tariff Act, 19 U.S.C. § 1304, administered by the Secretary of the Treasury and the Customs Service, requires that all products of foreign origin imported into the United States be marked with the name of a foreign country of origin. Where an imported product incorporates materials and/or processing from more than one country, Customs considers the country of origin to be the last country in which a "substantial transformation" took place. A substantial transformation is a manufacturing or other process that results in a new and different article of commerce, having a new name, character and use that is different from that which existed prior to the processing. Country-of-origin determinations using the substantial transformation test are made on a case-by-case basis through administrative determinations by the Customs Service.(5)
The FTC also has jurisdiction over foreign origin claims in packaging insofar as they go beyond the disclosures required by the Customs Service (e.g., claims that supplement a required foreign origin marking, so as to represent where additional processing or finishing of a product occurred). In addition, the Commission has jurisdiction over foreign-origin claims in advertising, which the U.S. Customs Service does not regulate.
Where Customs determines that a good is not of foreign origin (i.e., the good undergoes its last substantial transformation in the United States), there is generally no requirement that it be marked with any country of origin. For most goods, neither the Customs Service nor the FTC requires that goods made partially or wholly in the United States be labeled with "Made in USA" or any other indication of U.S. origin.(6) The fact that a product is not required to be marked with a foreign country of origin does not mean that it is permissible to promote that product as "Made in USA." The FTC will consider additional factors, beyond those considered by the Customs Service in determining whether a product is of foreign origin, in determining whether a product may properly be represented as "Made in USA."
This statement is intended to address only those issues related to U.S. origin claims. In developing appropriate country-of-origin labeling for their products, marketers are urged also to consult the U.S. Customs Service's marking regulations.
III. INTERPRETING U.S. ORIGIN
The Commission's authority to regulate U.S. origin claims derives from Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act ("FTC Act"), 15 U.S.C. § 45, which prohibits "unfair or deceptive acts or practices." The Commission has set forth its interpretations of its Section 5 authority in its Deception Policy Statement,(7) and its Policy Statement Regarding Advertising Substantiation Doctrine.(8) As set out in the Deception Policy Statement, the Commission will find an advertisement or label deceptive under Section 5, and therefore unlawful, if it contains a representation or omission of fact that is likely to mislead consumers acting reasonably under the circumstances, and that representation or omission is material. In addition, objective claims carry with them the implication that they are supported by valid evidence. It is deceptive, therefore, to make a claim unless, at the time the claim is made, the marketer possesses and relies upon a reasonable basis substantiating the claim. Thus, a "Made in USA" claim, like any other objective advertising claim, must be truthful and substantiated.
A representation may be made by either express or implied claims. "Made in USA" and "Our products are American made" would be examples of express U.S. origin claims. In identifying implied claims, the Commission focuses on the overall net impression of an advertisement, label, or other promotional material. This requires an examination of both the representation and the overall context, including the juxtaposition of phrases and images, and the nature of the transaction. Depending on the context, U.S. symbols or geographic references, such as U.S. flags, outlines of U.S. maps, or references to U.S. locations of headquarters or factories, may, by themselves or in conjunction with other phrases or images, convey a claim of U.S. origin. For example, assume that a company advertises its product in an advertisement that features pictures of employees at work at what is identified as the company's U.S. factory, these pictures are superimposed on an image of a U.S. flag, and the advertisement bears the headline "American Quality." Although there is no express representation that the company's product is "Made in USA," the net impression of the advertisement is likely to convey to consumers a claim that the product is of U.S. origin.
Whether any particular symbol or phrase, including an American flag, conveys an implied U.S. origin claim, will depend upon the circumstances in which the symbol or phrase is used. Ordinarily, however, the Commission will not consider a marketer's use of an American brand name(9) or trademark,(10) without more, to constitute a U.S. origin claim, even though some consumers may believe, in some cases mistakenly, that a product made by a U.S.-based manufacturer is made in the United States. Similarly, the mere listing of a company's U.S. address on a package label, in a nonprominent manner, such as would be required under the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act,(11) is unlikely, without more, to constitute a "Made in USA" claim.
IV. SUBSTANTIATING U.S. ORIGIN
Based on its review of the traditional use of the term "Made in USA," and the record as a whole, the Commission concludes that consumers are likely to understand an unqualified U.S. origin claim to mean that the advertised product is "all or virtually all" made in the United States. Therefore, when a marketer makes an unqualified claim that a product is "Made in USA," it should, at the time the representation is made, possess and rely upon a reasonable basis that the product is in fact all or virtually all made in the United States.(12), (13)
A product that is all or virtually all made in the United States will ordinarily be one in which all significant parts(14) and processing that go into the product are of U.S. origin. In other words, where a product is labeled or otherwise advertised with an unqualified "Made in USA" claim, it should contain only a de minimis, or negligible, amount of foreign content. Although there is no single "bright line" to establish when a product is or is not "all or virtually all" made in the United States, there are a number of factors that the Commission will look to in making this determination. To begin with, in order for a product to be considered "all or virtually all" made in the United States, the final assembly or processing of the product must take place in the United States. Beyond this minimum threshold, the Commission will consider other factors, including but not limited to the portion of the product's total manufacturing costs that are attributable to U.S. parts and processing; and how far removed from the finished product any foreign content is.
A. Site of Final Assembly or Processing
The consumer perception evidence available to the Commission indicates that the country in which a product is put together or completed is highly significant to consumers in evaluating where the product is "made." Thus, regardless of the extent of a product's other U.S. parts or processing, in order to be considered all or virtually all made in the United States, it is a prerequisite that the product have been last "substantially transformed" in the United States, as that term is used by the U.S. Customs Service -- i.e., the product should not be required to be marked "made in [foreign country]" under 19 U.S.C. § 1304.(15) Furthermore, even where a product is last substantially transformed in the United States, if the product is thereafter assembled or processed (beyond de minimis finishing processes) outside the United States, the Commission is unlikely to consider that product to be all or virtually all made in the United States. For example, were a product to be manufactured primarily in the United States (and last substantially transformed there) but sent to Canada or Mexico for final assembly, any U.S. origin claim should be qualified to disclose the assembly that took place outside the United States.
B. Proportion of U.S. Manufacturing Costs
Assuming the product is put together or otherwise completed in the United States, the Commission will also examine the percentage of the total cost of manufacturing the product that is attributable to U.S. costs (i.e., U.S. parts and processing) and to foreign costs.(16) Where the percentage of foreign content is very low, of course, it is more likely that the Commission will consider the product all or virtually all made in the United States. Nonetheless, there is not a fixed point for all products at which they suddenly become "all or virtually all" made in the United States. Rather, the Commission will conduct this inquiry on a case-by-case basis, balancing the proportion of U.S. manufacturing costs along with the other factors discussed herein, and taking into account the nature of the product and consumers' expectations in determining whether an enforcement action is warranted. Where, for example, a product has an extremely high amount of U.S. content, any potential deception resulting from an unqualified "Made in USA" claim is likely to be very limited, and therefore the costs of bringing an enforcement action challenging such a claim are likely to substantially outweigh any benefit that might accrue to consumers and competition.
C. Remoteness of Foreign Content
Finally, in evaluating whether any foreign content is significant enough to prevent a product from being considered all or virtually all made in the United States, the Commission will look not only to the percentage of the cost of the product that the foreign content represents, but will also consider how far removed from the finished product the foreign content is. As a general rule, in determining the percentage of U.S. content in its product, a marketer should look far enough back in the manufacturing process that a reasonable marketer would expect that it had accounted for any significant foreign content. In other words, a manufacturer who buys a component from a U.S. supplier, which component is in turn made up of other parts or materials, may not simply assume that the component is 100% U.S. made, but should inquire of the supplier as to the percentage of U.S. content in the component.(17) Foreign content that is incorporated further back in the manufacturing process, however, will often be less significant to consumers than that which constitutes a direct input into the finished product. For example, in the context of a complex product, such as a computer, it is likely to be insignificant that imported steel is used in making one part of a single component (e.g., the frame of the floppy drive). This is because the steel in such a case is likely to constitute a very small portion of the total cost of the computer, and because consumers purchasing a computer are likely, if they are concerned about the origin of the product, to be concerned with the origin of the more immediate inputs (floppy drive, hard drive, CPU, keyboard, etc.) and perhaps the parts that, in turn, make up those inputs. Consumers are less likely to have in mind materials, such as the steel, that are several steps back in the manufacturing process. By contrast, in the context of a product such as a pipe or a wrench for which steel constitutes a more direct and significant input, the fact that the steel is imported is likely to be a significant factor in evaluating whether the finished product is all or virtually all made in the United States. Thus, in some circumstances, there may be inputs one or two steps back in the manufacturing process that are foreign and there may be other foreign inputs that are much further back in the manufacturing process. Those foreign inputs far removed from the finished product, if not significant, are unlikely to be as important to consumers and change the nature of what otherwise would be considered a domestic product.
In this analysis, raw materials(18) are neither automatically included nor automatically excluded in the evaluation of whether a product is all or virtually all made in the United States. Instead, whether a product whose other parts and processing are of U.S. origin would not be considered all or virtually all made in the United States because the product incorporated imported raw materials depends (as would be the case with any other input) on what percentage of the cost of the product the raw materials constitute and how far removed from the finished product the raw materials are.(19) Thus, were the gold in a gold ring, or the clay used to make a ceramic tile, imported, an unqualified "Made in USA" claim for the ring or tile would likely be inappropriate.(20) This is both because of the significant value the gold and the clay are likely to represent relative to the finished product and because the gold and the clay are only one step back from the finished articles and are integral components of those articles. By contrast, were the plastic in the plastic case of a clock radio that was otherwise all or virtually all made in the United States found to have been made from imported petroleum, the petroleum is far enough removed from, and an insignificant enough input into, the finished product that it would nonetheless likely be appropriate to label the clock radio with an unqualified U.S. origin claim.
V. QUALIFYING U.S. ORIGIN CLAIMS
A. Qualified U.S. Origin Claims Generally
Where a product is not all or virtually all made in the United States, any claim of U.S. origin should be adequately qualified to avoid consumer deception about the presence or amount of foreign content. In order to be effective, any qualifications or disclosures should be sufficiently clear, prominent, and understandable to prevent deception. Clarity of language, prominence of type size and style, proximity to the claim being qualified, and an absence of contrary claims that could undercut the effectiveness of the qualification, will maximize the likelihood that the qualifications and disclosures are appropriately clear and prominent.
Within these guidelines, the form the qualified claim takes is up to the marketer. A marketer may make any qualified claim about the U.S. content of its products as long as the claim is truthful and substantiated. Qualified claims, for example, may be general, indicating simply the existence of unspecified foreign content (e.g., "Made in USA of U.S. and imported parts") or they may be specific, indicating the amount of U.S. content (e.g., "60% U.S. content"), the parts or materials that are imported (e.g., "Made in USA from imported leather"), or the particular foreign country from which the parts come ("Made in USA from French components").(21)
Where a qualified claim takes the form of a general U.S. origin claim accompanied by qualifying information about foreign content (e.g., "Made in USA of U.S. and imported parts" or "Manufactured in U.S. with Indonesian materials"), the Commission believes that consumers are likely to understand such a claim to mean that, whatever foreign materials or parts the product contains, the last assembly, processing, or finishing of the product occurred in the United States. Marketers therefore should avoid using such claims unless they can substantiate that this is the case for their products. In particular, such claims should only be made where the product was last substantially transformed in the United States. Where a product was last substantially transformed abroad, and is therefore required by the U.S. Customs Service to be labeled "Made in [foreign country]," it would be inappropriate, and confusing, to use a claim such as "Made in USA of U.S. and imported parts."(22)
B. Claims about Specific Processes or Parts
Regardless of whether a product as a whole is all or virtually all made in the United States, a marketer may make a claim that a particular manufacturing or other process was performed in the United States, or that a particular part was manufactured in the United States, provided that the claim is truthful and substantiated and that reasonable consumers would understand the claim to refer to a specific process or part and not to the general manufacture of the product. This category would include claims such as that a product is "designed" or "painted" or "written" in the United States or that a specific part, e.g., the picture tube in a television, is made in the United States (even if the other parts of the television are not). Although such claims do not expressly disclose that the products contain foreign content, the Commission believes that they are normally likely to be specific enough so as not to convey a general claim of U.S. origin. More general terms, however, such as that a product is, for example, "produced,"or "manufactured" in the United States, are likely to require further qualification where they are used to describe a product that is not all or virtually all made in the United States. Such terms are unlikely to convey to consumers a message limited to a particular process performed, or part manufactured, in the United States. Rather, they are likely to be understood by consumers as synonymous with "Made in USA" and therefore as unqualified U.S. origin claims.
The Commission further concludes that, in many instances, it will be appropriate for marketers to label or advertise a product as "Assembled in the United States" without further qualification. Because "assembly" potentially describes a wide range of processes, however, from simple, "screwdriver" operations at the very end of the manufacturing process to the construction of a complex, finished item from basic materials, the use of this term may, in some circumstances, be confusing or misleading to consumers. To avoid possible deception, "Assembled in USA" claims should be limited to those instances where the product has undergone its principal assembly in the United States and that assembly is substantial. In addition, a product should be last substantially transformed in the United States to properly use an "Assembled in USA" claim. This requirement ensures against potentially contradictory claims, i.e., a product claiming to be "Assembled in USA" while simultaneously being marked as "Made in [foreign country]." In many instances, this requirement will also be a minimum guarantee that the U.S. assembly operations are substantial.
C. Comparative Claims
U.S. origin claims that contain a comparative statement (e.g., "More U.S. content than our competitor") may be made as long as the claims are truthful and substantiated. Where this is so, the Commission believes that comparative U.S. origin claims are unlikely to be deceptive even where an unqualified U.S. origin claim would be inappropriate. Comparative claims, however, should be presented in a manner that makes the basis for the comparison clear (e.g., whether the comparison is being made to another leading brand or to a previous version of the same product). Moreover, comparative claims should not be used in a manner that, directly or by implication, exaggerates the amount of U.S. content in the product, and should be based on a meaningful difference in U.S. content between the compared products. Thus, a comparative U.S. origin claim is likely to be deceptive if it is made for a product that does not have a significant amount of U.S. content or does not have significantly more U.S. content than the product to which it is being compared.
D. U.S. Customs Rules and Qualified and Comparative U.S. Origin Claims
It is possible, in some circumstances, for marketers to make certain qualified or comparative U.S. origin claims (including claims such as that the product contains a particular amount of U.S. content, certain claims about the U.S. origin of specific processes or parts, and certain comparative claims) even for products that are last substantially transformed abroad and which therefore must be marked with a foreign country of origin. In making such claims, however, marketers are advised to take care to follow the requirements set forth by the U.S. Customs Service and to ensure, for purposes of Section 5 of the FTC Act, that the claim does not deceptively suggest that the product is made with a greater amount of U.S. parts or processing than is in fact the case.
In looking at the interaction between the requirements for qualified and comparative U.S. origin claims and those for foreign origin marking, the analysis is slightly different for advertising and for labeling. This is a result of the fact that the Tariff Act requires foreign origin markings on articles or their containers, but does not govern claims in advertising or other promotional materials.
Thus, on a product label, where the Tariff Act requires that the product be marked with a foreign country of origin, Customs regulations permit indications of U.S. origin only when the foreign country of origin appears in close proximity and is at least of comparable size.(23) As a result, under Customs regulations, a product may, for example, be properly marked "Made in Switzerland, finished in U.S." or "Made in France with U.S. parts," but it may not simply be labeled "Finished in U.S." or "Made with U.S. parts" if it is deemed to be of foreign origin.
In advertising or other promotional materials, the Tariff Act does not require that foreign origin be indicated. The Commission recognizes that it may be possible to make a U.S. origin claim in advertising or promotional materials that is sufficiently specific or limited that it does not require an accompanying statement of foreign manufacture in order to avoid conveying a broader and unsubstantiated meaning to consumers. Whether a nominally specific or limited claim will in fact be interpreted by consumers in a limited matter is likely to depend on the connotations of the particular representation being made (e.g., "finished" may be perceived as having a more general meaning than "painted") and the context in which it appears. Marketers who wish to make U.S. origin claims in advertising or other promotional materials without an express disclosure of foreign manufacture for products that are required by Customs to be marked with a foreign country of origin should be aware that consumers may believe the literal U.S. origin statement is implying a broader meaning and a larger amount of U.S. content than expressly represented. Marketers are required to substantiate implied, as well express, material claims that consumers acting reasonably in the circumstances take from the representations. Therefore, the Commission encourages marketers, where a foreign-origin marking is required by Customs on the product itself, to include in any qualified or comparative U.S. origin claim a clear, conspicuous, and understandable disclosure of foreign manufacture.