By Beth Perry
January 21, 2008 12:00 PM

It seemed, at first, like something straight out of Seinfeld: Author Missy Chase Lapine complaining that Jerry Seinfeld’s wife had stolen her ideas for sneaking veggies into kids’ foods. “Vegetable plagiarism!” as Seinfeld himself joked on The Late Show with David Letterman last October.

It’s not so funny now. On Jan. 7 Lapine, who wrote The Sneaky Chef—which hit stores six months before Jessica Seinfeld’s massive bestseller Deceptively Delicious and had been turned down by Seinfeld’s eventual publisher HarperCollins in ’06—filed suit accusing Jessica, 36, of plagiarism and Jerry, 53, of defaming her on Letterman (he called her, among other things, a “wacko”). Seinfeld lawyer Dick Menaker says the suit has no merit, declaring in a statement, “With Ms. Lapine’s next book coming out, she appears to be launching [her] PR efforts on the backs of the Seinfelds.” Not so, counters Marc Kasowitz, a lawyer for Lapine, 44. “She needed to vindicate both her work,” he says, “and her reputation.”