Lady A (the band) are now suing Lady A (the Seattle blues singer)
Country pop group Lady Antebellum announced in June that they were changing their name to Lady A, due to the "hurtful connotations" of "Antebellum" and its ties to the Confederacy and slavery. But it turned out there was already a Black blues artist in Seattle, Anita White, who had been using the name Lady A for over 20 years. The two parties talked it out over some Zoom meetings and blues singer Lady A said that the country band could also be Lady A. “Today, we connected privately with the artist Lady A," the band wrote. "Transparent, honest, and authentic conversations were had. We are excited to share we are moving forward with positive solutions and common ground. The hurt is turning into hope. More to come.”
But apparently those "positive solutions" didn't last long. The same day as the statement about the Zoom meeting happened, White told Newsday that she was not satisfied with the way things were left. “I’m not happy about [it] yet again after talking in good faith… Their camp is trying to erase me and I’ll have more to say tomorrow. Trust is important and I no longer trust them.”
Now, according to The Hollywood Reporter, lawyers for the band have filed a lawsuit against White over an “attempt to enforce purported trademarks rights in a mark that Plaintiffs have held for more than a decade.” According to the lawsuit, talks between the band, White and their respective lawyers broke down and White's attorneys "delivered a draft settlement agreement that included an exorbitant monetary demand."
The lawsuit does not mention a dollar amount but a statement released by the band Lady A says it was $10 million. "Today we are sad to share that our sincere hope to join together with Anita White in unity and common purpose has ended," they write. "She and her team have demanded a $10 million payment, so reluctantly we have come to the conclusion that we need to ask a court to affirm our right to continue to use the name Lady A, a trademark we have held for many years."
According to the lawsuit, Lady Antebellum "started using Lady A as a source indicator for their goods and services as early as 2006-2007, adopting as an official brand a name their fans began associating with the Musical Group as they rose to popularity. The Musical Group has used Lady A interchangeably with Lady Antebellum since the 2006-2007 timeframe." They applied to trademark Lady A in May 2010, and "the application was published for opposition on October 19, 2010, and registered on July 26, 2011 (U.S. Reg. No. 4004006) after no oppositions were filed by any person or entity, including White."
The lawsuit continues, “Prior to 2020, White did not challenge, in any way, Plaintiffs’ open, obvious, and widespread nationwide and international use of the LADY A mark as a source indicator for Plaintiffs’ recorded, downloadable, and streaming music and videos, Plaintiffs’ live musical performances, or Plaintiffs’ sale of souvenir merchandise.”
The lawsuit also acknowledges that White has used the name Lady A, including on streaming services and for touring, since 2010 but "based on information and belief" she has never used it as a trademark. The lawsuit is not asking for any monetary damages, just an official declaration that the band are lawfully using the Lady A trademark and that their continued use does not infringe on White's rights under state or federal law.
Before that hopeful Zoom call, White had said "“This is my life. Lady A is my brand, I’ve used it for over 20 years, and I’m proud of what I’ve done.... They’re using the name because of a Black Lives Matter incident that, for them, is just a moment in time.... It shouldn’t have taken George Floyd to die for them to realize that their name had a slave reference to it.”
White or her attorneys have not released a statement on the band's lawsuit. UPDATE: White has responded, saying "I am not going to be erased."
There is sure to be more to this story, but in the meantime you can read the band's full statement below and you can read the lawsuit at Pitchfork..
Today we are sad to share that our sincere hope to join together with Anita White in unity and common purpose has ended. She and her team have demanded a $10 million payment, so reluctantly we have come to the conclusion that we need to ask a court to affirm our right to continue to use the name Lady A, a trademark we have held for many years. It was a stirring in our hearts and reflection on our own blindspots that led us to announce a few weeks ago that we were dropping the word “Antebellum” from our name and moving forward using only the name so many of our fans already knew us by.
When we learned that Ms. White had also been performing under the name Lady A, we had heartfelt discussions with her about how we can all come together and make something special and beautiful out of this moment. We never even entertained the idea that she shouldn’t also be able to use the name Lady A, and never will—today’s action doesn’t change that. Instead, we shared our stories, listened to each other, prayed and spent hours on the phone and text writing a song about this experience together. We felt we had been brought together for a reason and saw this as living out the calling that brought us to make this change in the first place.
We’re disappointed that we won’t be able to work together with Anita for that greater purpose. We’re still committed to educating ourselves, our children and doing our part to fight for the racial justice so desperately needed in our country and around the world. We’ve only taken the first small steps and will prioritize racial equality as a key pillar of the work of LadyAID, specifically leaning into supporting and empowering our youth. We hope Anita and the advisers she is now listening to will change their minds about their approach. We can do so much more together than in this dispute.