Attorneys for Missy Chase Lapine, author of "The Sneaky Chef," today filed a lawsuit against Jessica Seinfeld and Jerry Seinfeld for copyright and trademark infringement and defamation in Federal District Court in New York.
The lawsuit alleges that Jessica Seinfeld blatantly plagiarized Ms. Lapine's book, "The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids' Favorite Meals," a critically-acclaimed and commercially successful cookbook with an innovative approach to improving children's eating habits. "The Sneaky Chef" shows parents how to, among other things, camouflage purees of carefully selected fruits and vegetables as ingredients in less healthy foods that kids like, such as cheeseburgers, pizza and brownies. Running Press Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, published "The Sneaky Chef" in April, 2007, generating positive reviews and quickly becoming a New York Times bestseller.
Six months later, in October, 2007, Jessica Seinfeld released a substantially similar book, "Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Getting Your Kids Eating Good Food."
Prior to the publication of "Deceptively Delicious," Ms. Lapine saw promotional material and alerted her publisher to the striking similarities between the two books, including cover art, subtitles, structure, design and overall look and feel. Running Press, seeking to prevent any violation of Ms. Lapine's rights, brought the striking similarities to the attention of Jessica Seinfeld's publisher. Jessica Seinfeld's publisher, which had earlier reviewed and passed up a book proposal by Ms. Lapine, nonetheless published the book with only insignificant changes. The lawsuit lists detailed examples of identical language in the two books.
At the same time, Jerry Seinfeld went on a malicious campaign against Ms. Lapine, publicly calling her a "nut job" and "hysterical." On an appearance on 'Late Show with David Letterman' in October 2007, Mr. Seinfeld called Ms. Lapine a "wacko" who had been "waiting in the woodwork" for a chance to attack the Seinfelds. He also asserted, incorrectly, that the two books came out "at the same time." The lawsuit cites several examples of defamatory language by Mr. Seinfeld, apparently intended to intimidate Ms. Lapine.
"This action for copyright and trademark infringement and defamation arises from conduct that gives new meaning to the terms 'arrogance' and 'greed,'" states the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also points out that Ms. Lapine is the former publisher of Eating Well magazine, is on the faculty of the New School and has extensive experience in child nutrition. She also serves on the Children's Advisory Council of Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of New York-Presbyterian, where "The Sneaky Chef" recipes are used with pediatric patients.
The lawsuit also notes that Ms. Lapine began researching methods for getting children to eat healthier foods five years before her book came out. She conducted numerous taste tests, focus groups and interviews, consulting extensively with leading nutritionists, pediatricians and chefs.
Ms. Lapine is represented by Marc E. Kasowitz and Mark P. Ressler of Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman, LLP.