Former “Seinfeld” scribe Carol Leifer has prevailed in a lawsuit that accused her of lifting an idea from a short film for the subplot of an episode of the hit NBC sitcom.
In a suit filed in New York last year, filmmaker Neil Leifer (no relation) claimed he approached Carol Leifer in 1991 with his idea for a comedy short revolving around conversations in a manicurist’s salon run by Koreans.
Leifer, a standup comic and former executive story editor on “Seinfeld,” turned down the offer to star in the short, which was eventually produced and screened at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 1992 under the title “Rosebud.”
In a ruling issued June 26, New York Supreme Court Judge Harold Tompkins dismissed Neil Leifer’s suit, saying his idea was “not so genuinely novel and original to warrant protection.” “Seinfeld” producer Castle Rock Entertainment and NBC were also named as defendants in the suit.
Neil Leifer’s “Rosebud” focused on the confusion sparked by parallel conversations — one in English, one in Korean — between two Korean manicurists and two American customers in the shop.
The subplot of a 1995 “Seinfeld” episode found the character Elaine becoming convinced that two Korean manicurists were talking about her in their native tongue while they worked on her nails.
In his ruling, Tompkins cited Shakespeare’s “Henry V” to make the point that the confusion caused by language barriers has been comedy fodder for centuries. Gerald Levine, attorney for Neil Leifer, said his client hasn’t decided whether he’ll appeal the decision.