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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 7, 2010

Seinfeld's wife not a copycat, court rules


By LARRY NEUMEISTER
Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Cookbook author Jessica Seinfeld, with husband Jerry, has been cleared of "vegetable plagiarism."

AP file photo

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NEW YORK Jerry Seinfeld's wife did not copy a cookbook author when she released her own techniques for getting children to eat vegetables, a federal appeals court has concluded.

In a written ruling issued last week, two days after it heard oral arguments, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan sided with Jessica Seinfeld in her 3-year-old copyright and trademark dispute with Missy Chase Lapine, saying the books were "not confusingly similar."

"Stockpiling vegetable purees for covert use in children's food is an idea that cannot be copyrighted," the court wrote.

Lapine, author of "The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids' Favorite Meals," sued Jessica Seinfeld over her cookbook, "Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food." The Seinfeld book was published several months after Lapine's in 2007.

The fight reached a boil when Jerry Seinfeld made light of Lapine's claims during an appearance on CBS' "Late Show with David Letterman" in the fall of 2007, saying Lapine was accusing his wife of "vegetable plagiarism." Lapine's lawyers said Seinfeld, best known for the popular television comedy series "Seinfeld," used his Letterman appearance to launch a "malicious, premeditated and knowingly false and defamatory attack" on their client.

In court papers, lawyers for Jessica Seinfeld had accused Lapine of falsely claiming she invented the idea of hiding fruits and vegetables in children's meals when "countless prior works utilized this very same unprotectable idea."

Two appeals judges who participated in the ruling said they found the concepts and feel of the books "very different."

In a ruling that paralleled a decision last year by a lower court judge, the appeals court said the two cookbooks lacked the substantial similarity required to support a copyright infringement claim. And they said there was no chance of confusion by book buyers.