Lady A, the Grammy-winning country trio known as Lady Antebellum until a few weeks ago, has sued Seattle blues artist Lady A, whose real name is Anita White, over a dispute for the rights to the name. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, seeks to prove that the band is not infringing on trademark rights by using the name and that both artists can perform with the title.
“Today we are sad to share that our sincere hope to join together with Anita White in unity and common purpose has ended,” the band said in a statement after filing the suit. “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… 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.”
The band’s lawsuit specifies that the trio has held a trademark for the “Lady A” name for over a decade. “The Musical Group 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 group claimed in the suit. “The Musical Group has used ‘Lady A’ interchangeably with ‘Lady Antebellum’ since the 2006-2007 timeframe.” The band isn’t asking for financial compensation but to get a declaratory judgement that the group hasn’t infringed on any trademark for the name.
The country trio changed its name last month because of the racial undertones of the word “antebellum,” which refers to the pre-Civil War South. But the black blues singer voiced her frustration to Rolling Stone over the change because the band hadn’t reached out prior to the announcement. White has used the Lady A name for decades, touring and releasing multiple albums under the moniker. She’s releasing another album, Lady A: Live in New Orleans, on her birthday on July 18th.
In the suit, the group claim that despite their official Lady Antebellum name, the term “Lady A” was interchangeable with their official name and that the Seattle singer “never used ‘Lady A’ as a trademark to identify her goods or as a service mark to identify her entertainment services.”
Days after White’s initial comments, the band reached out and discussed finding a resolution with the singer, later writing on Instagram that the two parties were “moving forward with positive solutions and common ground.” According to the lawsuit, the artists talked about collaborating on new music, and that there were initially no talks of a monetary deal to resolve the dispute.
But the conversation quickly derailed, and White emailed Rolling Stone the day after their Zoom meeting, saying that while the conversation she had with the band seemed productive, she’d “received an agreement from the Antebellum camp that is soley (sic) to protect them and erase me with no forethought despite the good faith conversation we had yesterday.”
She got new legal representation after that exchange, through Cooley LLP (who White says is representing her pro bono) and on July 7th, White sent a new proposal to the band. The suit calls White’s $10 million settlement proposal “exorbitant.” White has since told Rolling Stone that she asked for $5 million for herself and another $5 million to be donated to Black Lives Matter. “I didn’t ask for anything before; I told them multiple times I didn’t want to coexist. I shouldn’t have to fight for my name. They have totally, totally erased me,” White tells Rolling Stone. “In light of the text messages of them being warm and fuzzy, that was all an act, and I see that now.”
Read the full lawsuit, and the country group’s full statement, below:
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.”