Judge throws out lawsuit against plagiarizing Jessica Seinfeld, cites pretty pictures

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I don’t want to report this story, because it’s so clearly a travesty of justice that it makes my blood boil. In April, 2007, Missy Chase Lapine published a book called The Sneaky Chef with recipes for hiding healthy foods into kid-friendly favorites like grilled cheese with sweet potato, and brownies with spinach. Lapine is on the faculty of The New School in NY City and is the former publisher of Eating Well magazine. In October, 2007, Jessica Seinfeld published a book called Deceptively Delicious, also about sneaking foods into kids’ meals. In fact Seinfelds recipes, the concept for her book and many passages are strikingly similar to Lapine’s.

Most of the recipes have the exact same basic ingredients in the same unlikely combinations
Most recipes had the exact basic same ingredients, like “mashed potatoes with hidden cauliflower, grilled cheese with secret sweet potatoes, green eggs made with pureed baby spinach, carrot-laced tacos” and even “avocado in chocolate pudding.” There’s even more cited in Lapine’s legal filing, there’s peanut butter and jelly muffins with carrots, meat sauce with sweet potato, chicken tenders with sweet potato and chocolate chip cookies with white beans. Jessica Seinfeld’s professional background includes a career in marketing before she became Mrs. Jerry Seinfeld, having left her husband of less than a few months for the rich comedian after meeting him at the gym. She swears she loves to cook though.

Publisher admits receiving Lapine’s manuscript first
What’s more is that the publisher of Seinfeld’s book, Harper Collins, admits to receiving a manuscript of Lapine’s book at least twice before Seinfeld’s book was pitched to them by Seinfeld’s agent. Her book agent was Jennifer Rudolph Walsh of The William Morris agency. Walsh was involved in another plagiarism scandal when it came out that her college coed client Kaavya Viswanathan, had plagiarized large portions of her debut novel, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life. Viswanathan had received a 1/2 million advance for the book.

Judge cites better graphic design and layout of Seinfeld’s book
Lapine sued Seinfeld for copyright infringement in January of last year. After reading Lapine’s filing, I was pretty sure it was slam dunk. A federal judge has now stupidly thrown out the case against Seinfeld, but in her ruling she pretty much admits that she didn’t actually consider the vast similarities in the text or the recipes of the two books and cites the pretty pictures and graphic design in Seinfeld’s book as evidence that it doesn’t infringe on Lapine’s trademark. That’s justice for you. Do you think the Seinfelds made sure they got that specific judge to rule on their case?

The slander case against Jerry Seinfeld by Lapine still stands, though, and the judge threw it down to a state court. She can’t sound too biased now, can she? Seinfeld compared Lapine to a serial killer and called her a wacko when discussing her suit against his wife on The Late Show. Jessica Seinfeld called Lapine jealous and swore she’d never “held the book” in her hands.

A federal judge Thursday tossed out a cookbook author’s claim that comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s wife was a culinary copycat when she came out with her own book explaining how to entice children to eat vegetables.

U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain threw out the lawsuit brought against the Seinfeld couple by Missy Chase Lapine.

The judge rejected Lapine’s claims against Jessica Seinfeld, saying that the books, both best sellers, were not similar except for their goal of hiding healthy food inside the favorite meals of children.

She called Lapine’s book “a dry, rather text-heavy work” done predominantly in black, gray and shades of brownish-orange. She said Seinfeld’s book was “bright and cheerful, full of different colors and various patterns.” Consumers who looked at each book were unlikely to be confused, the judge said, tossing out trademark infringement claims.

However, the judge declined to rule on Lapine’s claim that Jerry Seinfeld libeled her on David Letterman’s show last year when he noted her three names and joked that people with three names – including James Earl Ray and Mark David Chapman – have turned out to be assassins.

She said those claims did not belong in federal court but should instead be filed in state court, where Lapine’s lawyer, Howard Miller, said he planned to bring them.

“They are still very much alive,” he said of the slander claims, along with claims against News Corp.’s HarperCollins that the publisher misappropriated information from Lapine’s book when it rejected her proposal in February and May 2006. Miller said the decision hasn’t been made on whether to appeal Swain’s rejection of all claims against Jessica Seinfeld.

[From AP via The Huffington Post]

In case you have any doubt that the judge was somehow under the Seinfeld’s thumb, she went and trashed Lapine’s earlier work calling it “dry” and “text heavy.” Oh yeah, it wasn’t plagiarism because Seinfeld hired a graphic designer. Here are some comparisons between the text in the two books, taken from Lapine’s legal filing on The Smoking Gun. These are not the only comparisons, there are other vast similarities:

Multiple wording, organization and concept similarities

Jessica Seinfeld’s infringement consists of copying Lapine’s copyrighted original expression, philosophy, premise, approach explanations, discussions, reflections, organization, methodology and overall look and feel, including (without limitation) the following respects:

Both the Book and the Infringing Work contain introductions written by doctors calling attention to the growing problem of obesity in American children and the difficulties inherent in providing sound nutrition to resistant children, and praising the author for creative, clever and convenient solutions for parents….

Both the Book and the Infringing Work begin with the author’s personal anecdote of mealtime struggles with her own picky eaters. In fact, both works include a story about how one of the author’s children is a picky eater who influenced a non-picky sibling to dislike food. Specifically, within that anecdote:

  • The Book describes “begging, pleading, threatening and bribing,” as well as “coercing kids to eat what’s on their plates.”
  • The Infringing Work describes “begging my kids to eat vegetables as well as “coerc[ing] them to eat food they found disgusting.”

    Both the Book and the Infringing Work explain that the author is not a professional chef, just a mother who desires to have peace at the dinner table and to feed her children nutritious food. Both works discuss how the author overcame the guilt of tricking her kids into eating healthy food:

  • The Book states that “this method has brought peace to our family table,” that “[i]n many families, the dinner table because a battleground and meal time is a power struggle,” and that “I couldn’t use logic, but I couldn’t afford to give up either.”
  • The Infringing Work states: “I just wanted a little peace around the dinner table,” and continues, “I want my kids to associate food and mealtimes with happiness and conversations, not power struggles and strife.” The Infringing Work acknowledges, “[W]e just want to give up.”…

    Both the Book and the Infringing Work address arguments against “sneaking” vegetables into children’s dishes and then systematically refute each one.

  • The Book likens the practice to a form of “loving deceit.”
  • The Infringing Work likens the practice to a form of “[l]oving [d]eception.”…

    Both the Book and the Infringing Work recommend steaming the vegetables, pureeing them in a food processor, packaging them in 1/4 cup baggies and then freezing them for later use:

  • The Book states: “[Y]ou will find the Make-Ahead… are your best friends… once you have these purees and blends in your refrigerator or freezer, simply grab a spoonful and mix it into the recipes as called for.” The Book claims that with respect to “…the scratch recipes, you’ll spend less than thirty minutes for each one.”…
  • The Infringing Work states: “You will quickly learn to prepare, cook, puree, and portion the purees. Then the purees will be available to use when they’re called for, just like any other ingredient in my recipes.” The Infringing Work claims that “…the recipes… are doable in thirty minutes or less…”
  • [From Lapine's legal filing, accessible onThe Smoking Gun]

    Now what are the odds that both books would have the same flow of ideas, same wording, and same ingredients in most of the recipes?

    Only one author got to go on Oprah to pitch her book, and she thanked her by sending $20,000 in high end shoes to the media mogul. “Thanks for helping making my cut and paste book a best seller, Oprah!” I wonder what kind of thanks that judge is going to get.

    Update: Thanks so much to author Missy Chase Lapine for stopping by and commenting on this story. I’ve e-mailed with her in the past and am certain it’s her. Lapine lets us know that her suit against publisher Harper Collins is still pending and that her suit against the Seinfelds for defamation is also going forward:

    Thank you, Celebitchy, for your support and fair reporting.
    This was a big procedural setback in my plagiarism suit against the Seinfelds. I’m up against very powerful opponents.
    The court did not dismiss my defamation claim against Jerry Seinfeld or my claims against the publisher, Harper Collins. It is not a joke that Jerry Seinfeld used national television to paint me in the minds of millions of people as a “wacko” and an “assassin.” There is no defense of a sense of humor that can justify this. I will continue to pursue these claims in NY state court for the harm the Seinfeld’s caused me and my family. Thank you all for your continued support.

    Jessica Seinfeld is shown out on 4/7/09. Credit: WENN.com

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    53 Responses to “Judge throws out lawsuit against plagiarizing Jessica Seinfeld, cites pretty pictures”

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    1. Granger says:

      Money can buy you a fancy book deal but it sure can’t buy you class.

    2. Lem says:

      wow! just wow!
      the only possible defense I can see is that nobody would literally steal every idea from a book and try and pass it off. Generalizing maybe, paraphrasing maybe, but wow! That defense falls flat here doesn’t it
      Ms. Senfield seems based on this, to flat out steal, nearly word for word. Damn
      Just another sign of the rich and powerful being lazy, useless, and spoiled. Did I mention lazy? WOW!

    3. GatsbyGal says:

      Seinfeld totally stole those recipies, they’re just TOO weird for two people to come up with completely on their own. I hope Lapine appeals.

    4. Goddess711 says:

      Seinfeld doesn’t have the brain power to come up with brilliance on her own, that’s evident. Her husband, however, DOES have the MONEY TO BUY A JUDGE which is clearly what happened.
      FU Seinfelds, I hope there’s a huge appeal and that Oprah does a show with Lapine.

    5. barneslr says:

      Someone needs to investigate that judge. I have to wonder if the Seinfelds paid her off somehow.

      I checked both books out from the library once, just out of curiosity, so I could compare them. They are practically identical. Only a very, very stupid person, or a very corrupt one would say that there was no plagiarism involved here. Either, way that judge was wrong and should be investigated.

    6. caitlinsmommmy says:

      Lapine should have sued Seinfled for stealing her intellectual property, not for copywrite infrindgment.

      Because what Seinfled really stole were the ideas!

    7. Lee says:

      Thanks for covering this Celebitchy. The Seinfelds are obviously hoping their purchase of a judge will just make this truth go away. But people need to talk about it, publicize it, make it the first thought that comes to mind when we think of the Seinfelds. Jessica’s blatant theft of intellectual material and subsequent purchase of a judge proves that money helps the low-class plagiarist. Will Oprah have her on again a la James Frey? Ha. Not likely.

    8. Firestarter says:

      It is just disgusting that Jessica Seinfeld got away with this. I cannot believe that a competent judge would look at the physical attributes and not the context of the book. Clearly Seinfelds is a copy!

      It is also b.s that Seinfeld gets to go on Letterman and impugne this woman’s character. I hope they lose a bundle in the slander suit and that judge will not be bought.

    9. Kaiser says:

      God, this is disgusting. What a f-cking fraud. WTH is up with the judge?

    10. Green Is Good says:

      Team Lapine! Appeal!

      Ms. Lapine will hopefully get a Judge who isn’t being bribed by Jerry Seinfeld.

      As if Mrs. Seinfeld evens knows where the kitchen in her house is. That’s what the hired Chef is for.

    11. Green Is Good says:

      Additional:

      Team Sue The Sh*t Out Of The Seinfeld’s For Slander.

    12. Praise St. Angie! says:

      as funny as his show was (still watch the reruns…), it’s pretty well known that Jerry Seinfeld is basically a real asshole.

      I hope Lapine appeals, sues the Seinfelds for slander/whatever, and I hope the judge is investigated.

      This case REEKS of corruption.

    13. Moore says:

      I bet it sucks to have no originality. I hope this case eats Seinfeld alive and takes the judge down with her. She deserves a judge that will hit her hard where it hurts and hopefully make a fool of Jerry.

    14. Rae says:

      Caitlinsmom, copyright is IP. IP is a class of property composed of copyright, trademark and patents. Her original recipes are copyrighted. I haven’t read all the details, but if the judge based her ruling on layout and format instead of the actual content of the books, she was definitely wrong adn I hope there’s an appeal.

    15. Stephie says:

      Arghh, hate that! Seinfelds’ richer than God so it’s obvious why everything’s going their way. Damn. Glad I never bought her book. And shame on you Oprah.

    16. cosby says:

      They are both goofy. What’s wrong with teaching children to love vegetables like my parents did? Growing and eating. And a book, “Sneaky Veggies” came out in 2006 which is also very similar so this wasn’t Lapine’s idea either. Pretty similar title yeh? Slate.com has some very good articles outlining the legal reasons this is not plagiarism.

    17. Firestarter says:

      Cosby- I guess there are children out there that have to be fooled. I know I have always LOVED veggies, in fact as a child I ate more veggies than I do now as an adult. My mom just served me dinner and I ate whatever I was given. I even loved Brussel Sprouts! There was no need to fool me.

    18. Thank you, Celebitchy, for your support and fair reporting.
      This was a big procedural setback in my plagiarism suit against the Seinfelds. I’m up against very powerful opponents.
      The court did not dismiss my defamation claim against Jerry Seinfeld or my claims against the publisher, Harper Collins. It is not a joke that Jerry Seinfeld used national television to paint me in the minds of millions of people as a “wacko” and an “assassin.” There is no defense of a sense of humor that can justify this. I will continue to pursue these claims in NY state court for the harm the Seinfeld’s caused me and my family. Thank you all for your continued support.

    19. Celebitchy says:

      Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting, Ms. Lapine, and I’m so sorry to hear about this setback. It’s outrageous.

    20. Tia C says:

      It appears that justice has not yet been served in this case. I hope Ms. Lapine has some kick a*s IP lawyers for her appeal. The Seinfelds truly disgust me.

    21. RubyKaur says:

      Oh, this is just disgusting. I hope Ms Lapine appeals and wins hands down. Steinfelds need to pay up and shut up and when I think of them I want to throw up. ;)

    22. Firestarter says:

      You stay strong Missy! Do not back down! This is so clearly a miscarriage of justice and that judge should be thoroughly investigated!

      I am glad you are going forward with the other cases and I hope that the Seinfelds are exposed for the terrible plagerists they are.

      I wonder how much material Jerry has stolen from other comics out there over the years.

    23. girl says:

      That is awful. I hope Lapine cleans him out. Especially after he went all low class and called her a whacko on national TV.

    24. Rosalee says:

      Good luck and best wishes..is there a fund set up for legal costs? I’d like to make a donation.

    25. Outrageous says:

      Really like Seinfeld, but did NOT like his handling of this rather obvious plagiarism.

      This decision does make the blood boil. Celebrity justice in this country is out of control. That judge is a joke.

      Hate to say it, but female judges generally are really awful. Female lawyers are great, but the judges suck. Especially when they can stick it to another woman which they do. Whether they are doing it out of jealousy, or because they are afraid of the men, or because they don’t want the men to think they’re identifying with the woman, who knows. Yes, Jessica is a woman but the case really was against Jerry (which he knew when he went on the talk show circuit to trash Lapine.)

      Gotta say, gotta bad taste in the mouth for Seinfeld after all this. Don’t like him so much anymore.

    26. Feebee says:

      How stupid is that judge?

      She also has three names… where’s your joke Jerry?

    27. Birdie says:

      The Seinfelds are gross people. I’ve had the misfortune of running into Jerry and Jessica in Montauk at Joanie’s Cafe. They couldn’t have been more obnoxious. Strolled in and walked right up to the counter, cut the whole line!! Their kids are terribly behaved. The oldest, a daughter, opened a bag of chips and let them fall all over the floor. Her parents did not apologize. Kept their sunglasses on the whole time. A couple teenage girls asked Jerry for his autograph and he practically spat at them “Can’t you see I’m out with my family. The answer is No”

      See, personally I think if you reap the benefits of celebrity (ie cutting a line of people) you should also accept the burdens. It really wouldn’t have killed him to show some graciousness to some kids. Or to apologize for his daughter creating a mess of the store.

    28. TaylorB says:

      While I totally agree that Ms Lapine was ripped off.

      I gotta say, when I was a kid my mother never ‘hid’ the ‘healthy’ food from us. Her take was you eat what I make for dinner, it is nutrious, healthy, and good for you. Granted she and my father were working full time (unlike Mrs seinfeld etc), so they didn’t have the time or the inclination to indulge us in our every culinary whim. We ate what we got, and if we decided it was beneath us, then ‘too bad, so sad’ that is what was for dinner… eat it or not period. Those sourpuss, entitled attitudes of ours ended after the 3rd or 4th Saturday morning trip to help feed the homeless at the SA; kinda put things in perspective.

    29. Catherine says:

      It would be more impressive if Ms. Lapine came back with a kick-ass cookbook instead of going forward with a defamation suit. Squash them with a big of comeback success!
      Intelligent people won’t take what Jerry Seinfeld said on tv to heart when you produce a superior book to slap them in the face with. My kids went for more food from Ms. Lapine’s Sneaky Chef than they did with the Seinfeld book. I was (and neither were my kids!) impressed with anything from DD.
      Just my two cents…. Best wishes to Ms. Lapine.

    30. ccoop says:

      This is really outrageous – anyone who has looked at those books can see the similarities. I hope Ms. Lapine keeps pursuing this, and I hope everyone else will not let this issue be swept under the carpet.

    31. fizXgirl314 says:

      man, she couldn’t even be bothered with changing even some of the basic things like the covoer theme… :/

    32. Gistine says:

      Jessica Seinfeld is a twat with no values and no class. This does not surprise me; look what she did to her fiance after being married to him for like, five minutes! Remember how she dumped him because ol’ big chompers Jerry hit on her at the gym?
      Rest assured; what goes around comes around and she will get hers.

    33. Leticia says:

      Team Lapine!

    34. TaylorB says:

      After re-reading the comparisons, all I can say is, while there are times when I question these plagerism suits, this is certainly not one of those cases. Ms. Seinfeld (or her ghostwriter, editors, publishers) ripped that off, clear as day, and that doesn’t say much that our justice system turned a blind eye. Please, correct me if I am wrong here, but if memory serves, plagerism doesn’t have to be verbatim, but an obvious and conscious retooling of someone elses original ideas is also plagerism; which this was.

    35. Tab says:

      I am heading to Amazon right now to purchase Lapine’s book.

    36. yadira says:

      APPEAL!!!!! Money cannot buy class or talent.

      I hope they are taken down a notch back into reality where there are consequences for your actions, no matter how “pretty” the colors on the book are!

    37. edgite says:

      That is unbelieveable! I remember the headlines when this issue arose, but until reading this article I had no idea on how much basis there was for a legitimate plagiarism claim. This is outrageous. She should absolutely appeal. You should try and send your article to other sites and get the word out. What a sickening display of idiocy and lack of conscience and GREED, from people who are already loaded. Yuck. Team Lapine!

    38. Dee says:

      A salient point that Ms. Lapine needs to emphasize, is that she did not originally notice the similarities in the book – the public did! How on earth can the judge claim this is not a case plagiarism when individuals not connected to the writing of the book noticed the similarities?

      Ms. Lapine graciously kept her mouth shut while Jessica lambasted her, by insinuating that she was jealous of Jessica! As if that wasn’t enough, Jerry had to bolster his wife’s lame attempt at character assassination with his own skullduggery.

      Judges are bought off all the time. In Dominick Dunne’s DVD – After the Party – he tells of an incident where he was arrested for possession of marijuana. A small time thug had befriended Dominick and said, “I’ll take care of it.” When Dominick went to the hearing, the judge immediately dismissed the case, and all mention of the incident was stricken from his records. His lawyer immediately went up to him, and queried, “Who do you know?” Unfortunately, Seinfeld is a multi-millionaire and can out lawyer Ms. Lapine.

    39. yae says:

      Jerry Seinfeld and his wife don’t care what any of you think of them. Even a lawsuit wouldn’t faze them much.

      They already made their millions. Ha! Too late now.

      On top of it they smeared Ms. Lapine’s name through the mud to the public. They will never get on David Letterman (for example) and apologise. Even if she does sue them, they win.

    40. I Choose Me says:

      This pisses me off to no end. Stealing someone’s ideas, and so blatantly is just, Gah! And then to make fun of the woman on the air and try to destroy her credibility is just..I’m so mad I can’t even find words. I really, really hope Miss Lapine appeals and that she wins her defamation suit.

    41. ! says:

      Yeah well cosby if you want to get REAL technical we could discuss how cauliflower in the mashed potatoes was an old trick I learned from WIC program meetings back in 2004 when my baby was born. All the same, these recipes are too eerily similar.

    42. Jag says:

      Team Lapine!

      The judge should lose her seat, the lawsuits should move forward, and the Seinfelds should have to pay.

      Anything else isn’t justice.

    43. humph! says:

      Ok. I watched Oprah and thought this was brilliant and bought the book immediately. My sister said, “humph! I’ve been sneaking veggies into my kids’ food for years!” Well I’ve never heard of such a thing. I liked the Jessica book, but when I bought the original book later, though it’s clear ideas were stolen, (who thinks of spinich in brownies!?!) The original book has better ideas with blending purees and making a flour mix. The Seinfeld’s bought a judge and that’s how they won the case. That’s the way it works around here, unfortunately!

    44. Bete says:

      It’s what being married to an uber loaded former tv comedian (who couldn’t act to save his life) is all about.
      If people think that the publishing industry is 100% altruistic or about hard work…think again. Most of the time it is about who you know.

    45. Karissa says:

      I think Miss Lapine should appeal & get Gerry Spence to defend her. He has never lost a case and this is her livelyhood.
      What does a man or a woman have if they don’t have their name!!!

      Jerry is a press hound and an insecure has-been ….Gerry Spence woud have a field day with those two idiots!
      Do not give up Miss Lapine!
      truth always wins out in the end. I recommend Gerry Spence’s book “How to argue and win everytime!” Good Luck.

    46. san says:

      You would have to be pretty stupid to rip something off this closely wouldn’t you? Maybe she had a ghost writer who used some inspiratiion?
      And now feels she can’t back down? We have dont spinach brownies for our kiddies before – but I think that it would be a common idea!

    47. Ameia says:

      I never liked Seinfeld (as a person) and would expect anyone he married to be a low-life.

    48. Aspie says:

      Shame on the Seinfelds for doing this! I hope Oprah invites Missy on her show now.

    49. CB Rawks says:

      That cartoon picture of Jessica looks evil. How appropriate.

      Best of luck, Ms. Lapine.

    50. bonafide says:

      According to rumor, this is not Jerry Seinfeld’s first experience with cheating people out of their profits. He cut the other three members of the cast out of the residuals for the show, and the three banded together and demanded $1-million per episode or they’d walk. (After all, they’d never see a dime from DVD sales.)

      Google “Seinfeld star power million” and click on the first link. It’s dated 1997.

    51. lucy says:

      I’ve always thought it sounded like a pretty clear cut case. Jessica Seinfeld’s book is WAAAAY too similar to Lapine’s, and unless Jessica has some way of proving her work process and how she came up with all of the ideas herself, I can’t imagine how anyone with common sense couldn’t see it.
      On top of that, Jerry never should have commented on it at ALL – many people say that all the time, that they can’t comment on a pending legal situation. Not only did he comment, but really said some horrible things about Lapine personally that yes, he should be held accountable for.
      Good luck to you, Ms. Lapine, you deserve justice and I truly hope you get it. I’ll be passing this story onto a few other sites I frequent as well, so others can see it too.

    52. icky says:

      wow- that’s a tragedy. I’ll be sure to buy Missy Chase Lapine’s book instead

    53. JJ says:

      One of the worst parts of this is the involvement of other parties – Harper Collins, and even David Letterman. When I read the account on Smoking Gun I couldn’t help but notice that the QUESTIONS and comments to Jerry by two DIFFERENT interviewers were EXACTLY THE SAME WORDING! Something like “what, does this woman think she’s the first person to cook and prepare food?” How manipulated are we when a “spontaneous” off-topic conversation is scripted on behalf of Jerry Seinfeld??? Also, is it really too much to ask to reward people for knowledge and skill as opposed to rewarding them for marrying a celebrity? I hope the lawsuit against Harper Collins is more fruitful.