After announcing they would officially change their name to Lady A in wake of racial injustice protests last month, drama continues to swirl around the band formerly known as Lady Antebellum. On Wednesday (July 8), the trio filed a lawsuit against the Seattle-based singer-songwriter who was already using the Lady A name.
According to reports first made by Billboard, the country hit makers filed their case in Nashville’s U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, asking the court to recognize their right to do business as “Lady A.” The move comes after Anita White — the artist who performs as Lady A — allegedly attempted “to enforce purported trademarks rights in a mark that Plaintiffs have held for more than a decade.”
Basically, the new Lady A says they’ve held a trademark on that name since at least 2011, and the old Lady A must allow them to use it. After making their name-change announcement in June, White came forward to note she was already using the name, doing an interview with Rolling Stone in which she questioned the band’s motives. Shortly after that negotiations between the two parties seemed to be going well, with both sides announcing “Transparent, honest and authentic conversations were had,” and that they were “moving forward with positive solutions and common ground.”
Those solutions reportedly included both the band and solo artist continuing to use the Lady A name, a collaboration on a new song and the country trio helping White promote her career. But now the band says White has demanded $10 million to use the name, forcing them to file the lawsuit.
“Today we are sad to share that our sincere hope to join together with Anita White in unity and common purpose has ended,” a statement from the group reads. “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.”
The suit claims Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood have been using both Lady Antebellum and Lady A interchangeably since 2006 or 2007, and that in 2010, they registered “Lady A” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. White did not offer any opposition to that filing, so they want the court to affirm their rights on the name.
“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 suit states.
The filing does acknowledge that White had been identifying herself on recorded music and on tour as “Lady A” since 2010, but says she did not trademark the name — and that if she had tried, it would have been after the band had already done so. It goes on to state that White’s demand for money is “exorbitant” and only came after she retained new lawyers, suggesting a lawsuit against the band was imminent and forcing them to file the suit.
The band is not asking for any money, only a court declaration that they are lawfully using the Lady A trademark, and that continuing to use it will not infringe on any rights White may have under state or federal law.
Here’s country trio Lady A’s full statement:
“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 blind spots 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.“