Complaint: Jessica Seinfeld's Cookbook Infringes, Jerry Defamed Author

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Complaint: Jessica Seinfeld's Cookbook Infringes, Jerry Defamed Author

Mon Jan 07, 2008 @ 03:52PM PST

Posted by Eriq Gardner

Seinfelds Remember that episode of "Seinfeld" when Elaine plagiarizes a Ziggy cartoon for The New Yorker? Well, hold onto your flambé torch. Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Seinfeld are going to court to answer allegations that she plagiarized her bestselling cookbook, and he defamed the stolen book's author.

Missy Chase Lapine, former publisher of Eating Well magazine and author of "The Sneaky Chef," has filed suit against the Seinfelds in New York District Court. According to the complaint, Jessica Seinfeld published her own cookbook, "Deceptively Delicious" that "brazenly plagiarized 'The Sneaky Chef,' even misappropriating the book's trademark."

The two have been involved in a public feud for months, after mothers on Oprah.com and parenting sites noted similarities between the two cookbooks.

Copyright and defamation don't usually go hand-and-hand, but Jerry Seinfeld is a celebrity with a good deal of media access. According to the complaint, after plagiarism allegations came up, he "embarked on a national media campaign of malicious defamation," including stops on Letterman and the E! Network.

The cookbook lists many instances of alleged copyright infringement, and we're unsure what prior courts have said about the copyrightability of putting sprinkles on food to enhance its appeal (page 10). But this case should be nevertheless entertaining. On Letterman's show, Seinfeld said Lapine is "another kind of nut. You know, she thinks she invented vegetables. And she's accusing my wife of stealing her mashed-up carrots."

UPDATED: The Seinfelds' lawyer, Richard Menaker of New York's Menaker & Herrmann, sent us a statement that Lapine's claims of defamation and plagiarism are false and suggests Lapine is seeking publicity to boost her book's sales. "Both are without merit," Menaker said. "there is absolutely no truth to any claim of plagiarism. The idea for Jessica Seinfeld's book came from her own experiences with her own family, in her own kitchen – just as countless other mothers have over the years."

EARLIER: Check out what other celebrities have recently been sued for defamation.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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