Jerry Seinfeld, wife sued over "vegetable plagiarism"

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Comedian Jerry Seinfeld and his wife were sued on Monday over her top-selling cookbook for kids by a rival author who complained of plagiarism and accused the star of defaming her on TV host David Letterman’s show.

Jerry Seinfeld and his wife Jessica, pose at the premiere of "Bee Movie" at Mann Village theatre in Westwood, California in this file photo from October 28, 2007. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

The suit, filed by cookbook author Missy Chase Lapine, claims Jessica Seinfeld copied her own book that explores how to sneak healthy foods into kids’ diets. It also accuses the top comedian of embarking on a “slanderous attack” against Lapine on U.S. national television shows.

Jessica’s Seinfeld’s book, “Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Getting Your Kids Eating Good Food,” was published by Harper Collins in 2007 six months after Lapine’s book “The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids’ Favorite Meals,” the suit said.

Jessica Seinfeld’s book plagiarized Lapine’s in concept, cover art -- including a similar picture showing hidden carrots -- style and structure, according to the lawsuit that seeks unspecified damages.

When Seinfeld appeared on Letterman’s show, he said the books were published at the same time and implied Lapine was a “wacko” and celebrity stalker, comments the suit -- filed in Manhattan federal court -- described as “false.”

Seinfeld also joked that Lapine accused his wife of “vegetable plagiarism” and poking fun at Lapine’s name and mental condition, including contending that “if you read history, many of the three-name people do become assassins,” before citing John Lennon’s killer Mark David Chapman, the suit said.

The suit said the comedian later told E! News, “this woman is another kind of nut. You know, she thinks she invented vegetables. And she is accusing my wife of stealing her mashed-up carrots.”

Richard Menaker, a lawyer for the Seinfelds, told Reuters “there’s not truth” to Lapine’s claim of plagiarism and in relation to the defamation allegations said “there’s absolutely no basis for any kind of a legal claim.”

The suit said Jessica Seinfeld also made statements similar to those of Lapine in her book about how the author overcame the guilt of tricking her kids into eating healthy food and how to sneak vegetables into kids’ meals.

Lapine is a former publisher of “Eating Well” magazine, formerly worked at “Gourmet” magazine and teaches at The New School in New York. She said she researched her book for five years, the suit said.

Reporting by Christine Kearney, editing by Michelle Nichols and Todd Eastham