NEW YORK – An author who claims Jerry Seinfeld's wife plagiarized her cookbook sued the famous couple on Monday, finding no humor when the comedian compared the three-name author to the three-name killers of John Lennon and Martin Luther King Jr.
The lawsuit, seeking unspecified damages for copyright and trademark infringement, was brought in U.S. District Court in Manhattan by Missy Chase Lapine, the author of "The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids' Favorite Meals."
"Jerry Seinfeld is an enormously wealthy and well-known comedian, and Jessica Seinfeld is his wife, but that does not give them license to slander and plagiarize," the lawsuit said.
The Seinfelds' lawyer, Richard Menaker, disputed Lapine's claims of defamation and plagiarism and suggested Lapine was seeking publicity to boost her book's sales.
"Both are without merit," Menaker said. "There's no truth in fact or law to this claim of plagiarism. The idea for Jessica Seinfeld's book came from her own experiences with her family out of her own kitchen."
And he said there was "no basis" for any kind of legal claim of defamation.
"Jerry Seinfeld is entitled to his opinions," Menaker said. "Even though Jerry Seinfeld is a public figure, he doesn't lose his right to free speech because of that."
In October, HarperCollins published Jessica Seinfeld's "Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food."
Hearing about the Seinfeld book in May while promoting her own book, published a month earlier, Lapine complained, and the war of words was under way.
The lawsuit said the Seinfelds were warned even before the book was published that it had blatant similarities to Lapine's book.
Still, when Jerry Seinfeld appeared on CBS' "Late Show with David Letterman" in October, he suggested Lapine was a crackpot and declared his wife not guilty of "vegetable plagiarism," the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit also quoted him telling Letterman: "Now you know, having a career in show business, one of the fun facts of celebrity life is wackos will wait in the woodwork to pop out at certain moments of your life to inject a little adrenaline into your life experience."
It said Seinfeld also noted that Lapine has three names and that "if you read history, many of the three-name people do become assassins."
Then Seinfeld added, "Mark David Chapman. And you know, James Earl Ray. So that's my concern," the lawsuit recalled.
Lennon was shot and killed outside his Manhattan apartment by Chapman, a deranged fan, on Dec. 8, 1980. King was assassinated by Ray on April 4, 1968, on the balcony of a hotel in Memphis, Tenn.
The lawsuit said a reasonable person watching Seinfeld on Letterman's show would conclude that he had described Lapine as mentally ill with "potentially violent or, at a minimum, hostile, tendencies, proclivities and activities."
It argued that Lapine was not a public figure, does not suffer mental infirmity, is not a celebrity stalker, is not violent or dangerous, and does not engage in extortion or lies.