I blogged about the Seinfeld-Lapine cookbook spat when Missy Chase Lapine, author of The Sneaky Chef, first filed a copyright and trademark lawsuit against Jessica Seinfeld, author of Deceptively Delicious and wife of comedian Jerry Seinfeld. My predictions for the case came true. I love when that happens!
Courts Grant Summary Judgment to Seinfeld on Copyright and Trademark Claims
First, the court confirmed that hiding vegetables in foods children enjoy is a basic idea and copyright does not protect basic ideas. Copyright infringement requires substantial similarity and the court found none between The Sneaky Chef and Deceptively Delicious. Lapine argued that the cookbooks have a similar organization, pattern, structure, and sequence in that both books have
- a cover and title conveying a concept of secretly getting children to eat healthy foods
- an introduction or forward by a doctor
- a personal narrative by the author describing her struggle, revelation, recipe testing and effects
- a discussion of appliances
- a list of essential ingredients
- instructions for making the purees in advance and storing them for later use
- a collection of individual recipes using those foods
However, the court found all these elements to be stock elements of cookbooks (i.e., they are elements one would naturally expect to find in a cookbook) and as such, copyright does not protect them.
The look and feel of the two books also differed in several ways. According to the court:
- Deceptively Delicious lacks the extensive discussion of child behavior, food philosophy, and parenting that pervades The Sneaky Chef.
- The Sneaky Chef uses primarily black, gray, and shades of brownish orange while Deceptively Delicious employs bright colors and more photographs.
- The Sneaky Chef assumes greater familiarity with cooking, recommends thirteen methods for hiding healthy foods, and provides recipes for multiple-ingredient purees, Deceptively Delicious instructs readers about only single-ingredient purees and contains more basic instructions.
The court also made short work of the trademark infringement claim finding that the images used on each of the cookbook covers were not similar.
Court Does Not Grant Summary Judgment on the Defamation Claim
In my previous posting on this matter, I predicted that Lapine’s defamation claims against Jerry Seinfeld for remarks Seinfeld made on the Late Show with David Letterman were actually stronger than her copyright and trademark claims. Note that the court allowed the defamation claim to stand. I don’t know the status of that claim but I would not be surprised if the Seinfelds ultimately prevail on the defamation claim. It’s just going to take longer.
Some Consolation for Lapine
Even though Lapine has lost most of her lawsuit, she can take some consolation that her book is outpacing Seinfeld’s in the marketplace. The last time I checked, Amazon ranked Lapine’s The Sneaky Chef at 1,183 in books and Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious at 8,740 in books.