Country group Lady A file suit against Anita 'Lady A' White for right to keep using name
Despite a recent Instagram post asserting that both sides were "moving forward with positive solutions and common ground," it seems things between the country trio Lady A and the blues artist Anita "Lady A" White are no longer copacetic.
On Wednesday, the band formerly known as Lady Antebellum — Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley, and Dave Haywood — filed suit against White for the right to continue using the Lady A moniker.
"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. "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."
According to the filing, White is represented by Cooley LLP in the trademark litigation matter, but representatives for the firm declined to confirm they were representing White when reached for comment by EW. Other representatives for White did not immediately respond to EW's request for comment.
The dispute dates back to June, when in the wake of widespread protests against police brutality and racial injustice, the band members announced their intent to dissociate themselves from the history of slavery by permanently changing their name from Lady Antebellum to Lady A, a nickname they'd previously used on merchandise, their website, and more.
The announcement prompted an outcry from White, a Black artist based in Seattle who had been using the stage name Lady A since the 1980s. "They're using the name because of a Black Lives Matter incident that, for them, is just a moment in time," White told Rolling Stone. "If it mattered, it would have mattered to them before."
Days later, however, a swift reconciliation appeared possible as both parties shared an Instagram post with an image of a mutual video chat that said they were working together and "the hurt was turning into hope."
According to the suit filed at the U.S. Middle District Court of Tennessee, the parties had agreed not only to peacefully coexist, but that band Lady A would support singer Lady A's musical career. The suit also says they were collaborating on writing and recording a song together.
Shortly after the virtual chat and Instagram declaration, however, White told Newsday, "I received a draft agreement from the Antebellum camp. I'm not happy about [it] yet again after talking in good faith… Their camp is trying to erase me and I'll have more to say tomorrow. Trust is important and I no longer trust them."
The band's suit says talks broke down after "White's new counsel delivered a draft settlement agreement that included an exorbitant monetary demand."
"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," the band said in their statement Wednesday. "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."
The suit also outlines the band's history with the name Lady A and pre-existing trademark, saying they've used the name Lady Antebellum and Lady A interchangeably since around 2006 or 2007. The suit includes images from the band's website and other reports about the band that demonstrating their use of the name Lady A over the years.
According to the suit, the band applied to register the name Lady A with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in May 2010. It was officially registered July 26, 2011, after no oppositions to the trademark were filed. The suit says White never applied to trademark or register the name Lady A.
The suit doesn't ask for White to cease using the name Lady A, or for any monetary damages. "Plaintiffs simply wish that the parties continue to coexist," it says.
"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," the band said. "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."