Tuesday, May 4, 2010

No copyright infringement in sneaky cookbook for kids

Cookbooks are like exercise equipment. We all have them, but we do not always use them. Some of us have them and do not use them at all. That doesn't mean we don't buy them. Cookbooks are a lucrative market for publishers. Which is why The Sneaky Chef, Inc., sued Jessica Seinfeld.

The case is Lapine v. Seinfeld, decided by summary order on April 28. This is a copyright infringement case. Plaintiff published a cookbook called, The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids' Favorite Meals. The idea was that kids need to be tricked into eating healthy food. Four months later, Jessica Seinfeld (Jerry's wife) published Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets To Get Your Kids Eating Good Food, which also focused on how to sneak vegetables into food. Did Seinfeld commit a copyright violation?

No, says the Court of Appeals (Raggi and Hall). The books carry similar concepts, but "Stockpiling vegetable purees for covert use in childrens' food is an idea that cannot be copyrighted." Ideas, concepts and processes are not covered under the copyright law. The Court adds:

to the extent the two works have general and abstract similarities – including their vaguely similar titles and inclusion of illustrations of prepared dishes, health advice, personal narrative, descriptions of how to make purees, instructions for preparing dishes, and language about children’s healthy eating – the district court correctly concluded that these elements do not raise a fact issue for trial because they are “scènes à faire,” or “unprotectible elements that follow naturally from [the] work’s theme rather than from [the] author’s creativity.”

In addition, both books contain a different concept and feel. The Sneaky Chef contains extensive discussion of child behavior, food philosophy and parenting. The Seinfeld book does not. Seinfeld's book is also more colorful with more photographs. The Sneaky Chef also seems to be more sophisticated when it comes to cooking.

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