(CN) – Jerry Seinfeld’s wife, Jessica, did not plagiarize her best-selling cookbook, “Deceptively Delicious,” a federal judge in Manhattan ruled. The judge declined to exercise jurisdiction over a claim that the comedian defamed the author of the rival book by calling her a “nut job” and a “wacko” on national television.
Missy Chase Lapine filed a lawsuit accusing Jessica Seinfeld of lifting her book, “Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Getting Your Kids Eating Good Food,” from Lapine’s work, “The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Food in Kids’ Favorite Meals.”
Both books were New York Times best-sellers, with Seinfeld’s reaching number one.
U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain ruled that Seinfeld’s cookbook “has a completely different feel and appears to be directed to a different audience.”
“The similarities identified by plaintiffs are the result of the similar medium of expression used (cookbooks) or of the similar subject matter that both cookbooks address (hiding healthy foods in kid-friendly foods),” Judge Swain wrote.
The judge said there were many differences between the two works, despite the similar subject matter, and that “the protection granted a copyrightable work extends only to the particular expression of the idea and never to the idea itself.”
“It remains nothing more than the very idea that Plaintiffs recognized as unprotectable: hiding vegetables in foods children enjoy,” she wrote.
But Lapine claimed that not only was the general idea for the book stolen, but that Seinfeld also lifted the structure and individual elements. She cited similarities in the covers, illustrations, lists of appliances and ingredients, and the personal narratives describing the struggle of testing recipes.
Both books include an extensive recipe section and a forward written by a doctor.
It wasn’t enough to sway the judge, who wrote, “Stock elements resulting from the initial choice of subject matter are not protectable.”
The tone of “The Sneaky Chef” is “informative and lecturing,” Swain wrote, while “Deceptively Delicious” focuses more on recipes and basic cooking instructions.
“It lacks the extensive discussion of child behavior, food philosophy and parenting” found in Lapine’s book, the judge wrote.
Judge Swain also noted the different “tone and feel” of the two books. She described “The Sneaky Chef” as a “dry, rather text-heavy work,” and said it was done mostly in “black, grey and shades of brownish-orange.”
In contrast, she said “Deceptively Delicious” was “bright and cheerful, full of different colors and various patterns,” and is peppered with color photographs.
Judge Swain also dismissed Lapine’s state-law claims for lack of jurisdiction, including the defamation claim against Jerry Seinfeld.
The claim arose from Seinfeld’s appearance on the “Late Show With David Letterman,” where he defended his wife and heckled Lapine.
Seinfeld poked fun at the lawsuit, saying, “She says, you stole my mushed-up carrots. You can’t put mushed-up carrots in a casserole. I put mushed-up carrots in the casserole. It’s vegetable plagiarism.”
The former sitcom star went on to call Lapine “angry” and “hysterical,” and said that part of being a celebrity is that “wackos will wait in the woodwork to pop out.”
He joked that many “three-named people do become assassins.”
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