Former Lady Antebellum files suit against Seattle blues singer with longtime name ‘Lady A’

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(Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

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The all-white country music band formerly known as Lady Antebellum recently changed their name to “Lady A,” in response to calls from Black Lives Matter supporters who said the term ‘Antebellum’ conjured up images of the slave-owning Old South.

A day after they announced the name change, black Seattle blues singer, Anita White — who has used the stage name “Lady A” for more than 20 years — spoke out about the decision.

After discovering White had been using the name for two decades, the band reached out to her, sharing a pic on Instagram.

“We are excited to share we are moving forward with positive solutions and common ground. The hurt is turning into hope. More to come,” the band wrote in the post.

They weren’t kidding about the ‘more to come’ part.

After discussions broke down, the country trio — Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley, and Dave Haywood — filed a lawsuit against White in federal court “seeking a ruling that their use of ‘Lady A’ does not infringe on White’s alleged trademark rights of the same name,” The Associated Press reported, adding that the trio is not looking for “monetary damages.”

After changing their band’s name, the group said last month they regretted not taking into consideration how the term ‘Antebellum’ could be tied by some to romanticizing the pre-Civil War South.

At that point, the group entered into talks with White, but they broke off without a solution, leading to the lawsuit.

For her part, White has released several albums under the name “Lady A” since the 1990s. She has a new one set for release — “Lady A: Live in New Orleans” — later this month.

The lawsuit states that the band applied for trademarks back in 2010 for the name “Lady A” to use on clothing and for entertainment services, adding that there were no oppositions filed to their application.

“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,” said the group in a statement.

“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.” 

Last month, intellectual property attorney Wesley Lewis explained to Rolling Stone the concept of copyright infringement.

“Just like other goods and services in the marketplace such as Nike or McDonald’s, band names can be protected under trademark law,” he said.

“It’s about who is first to use a name. Audience size is irrelevant,” added Bob Celestin, a music industry attorney. “And the question is, does the original Lady A have a trademark registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office?”

If so, she has standing to sue the band, Celestin said. However, “if not, she still has a common law trademark and she can still show that she’s been using the name in commerce — records, posters, tour flyers — for a number of years.”

White told the magazine she has a business trademark for Lady A LLC, but she didn’t know where that puts her legally.

“I don’t know if [the band] are going to give me a cease-and-desist,” she said. “I don’t know how they’d react. But I’m not going to stop using my name.

Celestin said if the case winds up in court — as appears to be the case — one party or the other will likely have to change the name of their act. He added that the new Lady A may also be liable for damages payable to White.

Reaction to the lawsuit on social media was sharp.

**Warning: Language

https://twitter.com/jermiest20/status/1281203886561337345

 

 

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Jon Dougherty

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