What’s in “a” name? Well, when you recently realized your band name was an ode to the confederacy and now you want to go by “Lady A”, a name apparently involves a lawsuit. Billboard reports that country band Lady A, formerly known as Lady Antebellum, is suing Seattle based blues singer Anita “Lady A” White for sole custody of the name Lady A, which the band has had trademarked since 2010. The lawsuit filed Wednesday, July 8 in Nashville, TN claims that Ms. White has attempted to “enforce purported trademarks rights in a mark that Plaintiffs have held for more than a decade.”
When Lady Antebellum announced the name switch last month, White, who’s been performing under the moniker Lady A for over 20 years, initially told Rolling Stone that she had no intention of changing her name for the “Need You Now” singers, claiming they were only changing their name “because of a Black Lives Matter incident that, for them, is just a moment in time.” However, the dueling Lady A’s were eventually able to hold conversations over Zoom in order to find an amicable way to allow both Lady A groups to exist, culminating in a social media post from the band referencing “positive solutions” and “common ground.”
Any and all positive solutions and common ground seem to have been lost as negotiations between the parties reportedly “broke down” due to White asking for a $10 million to bid the name Lady A farewell. “Today we are sad to share that our sincere hope to join together with Anita White in unity and common purpose has ended,” said the band in a statement, included in full below. “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.”
In the suit, band members Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and David Haywood claim that they have used the name Lady A interchangeably with Lady Antebellum since the group began in 2006, and includes a webpage from 2008 and several other references to the group as Lady A as evidence of this fact. According to the lawsuit and verified by Billboard, the band applied to register Lady A for entertainment purposes in May of 2010, the band applied to register Lady A for entertainment purposes, and the application was approved and registered on July 26, 2011. The lawsuit claims that White did not “did not challenge, in any way, Plaintiffs’ open, obvious, and widespread nationwide and international use of the LADY A mark.” The band isn’t seeking to prevent White from performing using the name Lady A and isn’t looking for any monetary compensation from White for performing under their trademarked name.
Representatives for White have yet to respond for comment regarding the lawsuit. Suing a Black woman for wanting to retain the name she’s performed under for over two decades is a bold choice for a group that is trying to change their band name due to its ties to slavery. While the band has legally trademarked the name Lady A, perhaps they could do the original Lady A a solid and settle for being called Lady B as in “band” or Lady C as in “country music” (Lady G wouldn’t work for obvious reasons). Honestly, Madame A has a nice ring to it as well.
Update, 10:15 p.m.: The original Lady A, blues singer Anita White, has a message for the band formerly known as Lady Antebellum. “No weapon against me shall prosper,” wrote White in a tweet. “#LadyA BluesSoulFunkGospelArtist #TheRealLadyA.” Looks like #TheRealLadyA isn’t threatened by a little lawsuit from any wannabe Lady As.
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.”