NASHVILLE (CN) - Thomas Nelson, the world's largest publisher of English-language Bibles, accused its competitor, Evangelical publisher Zondervan, of copyright infringement, civil conspiracy and breach of contract for hiring the same children's book illustrator. Nelson claims that Zondervan's "Princess Twins" children's book series look an awful lot like Nelson's "Gigi, God's Little Princess" series, right down to the button noses, white cats and tea parties.
Meredith Johnson, the illustrator for both book series, is also a defendant in the federal complaint. Nelson says Johnson began working with it in October 2004 on its successful "Gigi" books.
In that series, Gigi and her friend Frances provide Christian lessons to girls between the ages of 4 and 8, who can also buy Gigi dolls, toys, stickers, dress-up kits and clothes.
"'Gigi's First Day of School' was the number one selling Christian DVD for at least two weeks in 2009," Nelson says in its complaint.
Nelson complains that soon after Gigi's debut, Zondervan hired Johnson to draw its "substantially similar" Princess Twins series.
Zondervan's Princess Emma and Nelson's Gigi "both have round faces, dark wavy hair, button noses, two prominent front teeth and virtually identical smiles," according to the complaint. It adds that several story lines are the same, and each girl has a white cat.
Johnson started working for Nelson on a work-for-hire basis and was "apparently remained disgruntled with the compensation," when she negotiated a deal with Zondervan, according to the complaint.
Nelson seeks damages for breach of contract, intentional interference with business relations, copyright infringement, unfair competition, violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act and civil conspiracy.
Nelson is represented by John Jacobson and William Campbell Jr. with Riley Warnock & Jacobsen.