Seattle blues singer Anita “Lady A” White filed a countersuit against country trio Lady A Tuesday evening, the latest in an escalating legal dispute that began over the summer after the group, formally known as Lady Antebellum, changed their name and subsequently sued White over the rights to the name.
In her suit, filed in the U.S. District Court’s Western District of Washington against band members Charles Kelley, David Haywood and Hillary Scott alongside Lady A Entertainment, LLC, White claims that she has “nationwide common law rights in the trademark LADY A in connection with music and entertainment services in the nature of musical performances,” and that her ownership predates “any rights in the LADY A mark allegedly owned by Lady Antebellum.”
The trademark the two groups are using is identical, and White claims that using the Lady A name infringes her trademark rights. Further, White alleges that since the country trio started using the name, the band has overshadowed searches for her on social media and music services, resulting in “lost sales, diminished brand identity, and diminution in the value of and goodwill associated with the mark.” She is suing for trademark infringement and unfair competition.
“The effect of the name change on Ms. White’s ability to distinguish her music in the marketplace was overwhelming,” the suit says. “Internet and social media searches for ‘Lady A,’ which had readily returned results for her music, were now dominated by references to Lady Antebellum. Ms. White’s LADY A brand had been usurped and set on the path to erasure.”
A rep for the group did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
The band changed their name from Lady Antebellum following the police killing of George Floyd over the former name’s ties to the slavery-ridden, pre-Civil War American South. The group didn’t know White had already been performing under the name for decades, releasing six albums and going on various tours as Lady A. After Rolling Stone published a story voicing White’s frustration over the band’s lack of outreach, the group connected with White and said they had a positive talk to move forward.
Those conversations quickly soured however, and the band sued White in July, stating White asked for $10 million over the name and they had no other option. “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,” the band said in a statement accompanying their suit. “We hope Anita and the advisers she is now listening to will change their minds about their approach.”
In the country trio’s suit, the band didn’t ask for financial compensation, but rather to prove that the band wasn’t infringing any trademark rights over the name and that both artists can perform with the title. The band has held trademarks over the Lady A name for over a decade, they maintain.
White later clarified that $10 million settlement to Rolling Stone, saying she didn’t initially ask for any money and that she only made the claim after she felt the band wasn’t listening to her concerns over any sort of deal. Half of that payment would’ve gone to multiple charities including Black Lives Matter, she said.
White is now asking for unspecified compensatory damages, a royalty fee for music sales and performances under the Lady A mark and payment for infringing the Lady A name.
“If they are in fact allies, they have the resources, they have the money, they can change their name. It wouldn’t cost them a dime,” White previously told Rolling Stone. “We have to remember the reason for the name change. If that wasn’t the true reason for the name change, none of this makes sense.”
Anita White’s Countersuit Against Lady A