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Lady A (formerly Lady Antebellum) files lawsuit against singer Lady A over band name

(L-R) Lady A, the band (formerly known as Lady Antebellum): Dave Haywood, Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley, and Lady A (R), the singer, born Anita White.
(L-R) Lady A, the band (formerly known as Lady Antebellum): Dave Haywood, Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley, and Lady A (R), the singer, born Anita White. CP Images Archive

Less than a month after changing its name to Lady A, the country trio formerly known as Lady Antebellum has filed a lawsuit against blues singer Anita White, who has been using the same moniker for more than two decades.

The Grammy Award-winning band’s legal filing was submitted to the Nashville U.S. District Court on Wednesday after White’s legal team gave them “a draft settlement agreement that included an exorbitant monetary demand” — even though the two parties had already had “heartfelt discussions” about a “peaceful” and “continued coexistence” as Lady A — as seen in a court filing provided to Global News by a representative of the band.

While the group is not suing White, 61, for monetary compensation, or even asking her to change her stage name, they are seeking a ruling that their use of the trademark “Lady A” — which they claim to “have held for many years” — does not infringe on any trademark rights White may have for the same name.

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“(White) 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 band wrote in an accompanying statement.

(L-R) Hillary Scott, Dave Haywood, and Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum perform onstage during the CMA Festival on June 12, 2015 in Nashville, Tenn.
(L-R) Hillary Scott, Dave Haywood, and Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum perform onstage during the CMA Festival on June 12, 2015 in Nashville, Tenn. John Shearer / Getty Images

The band — which consists of members Hillary Scott, Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley — reportedly applied for trademarks to the name “Lady A” back in 2010, specifically for entertainment services and for use on clothing back. “No oppositions were filed by any person or entity,” according to the Associated Press.

“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,” the group said in their latest 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.”

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The Need You Now rockers officially dropped the word “Antebellum” from their name on June 11 after being “awakened” to the unfortunate historical “associations” with the word in wake of the Black Lives Matter protests triggered by the killing of George Floyd.

“We are regretful and embarrassed to say that we did not take into account the associations that weigh down this word,” the Nashville-based band wrote in a statement, acknowledging that “antebellum” refers to a period in history before the Civil War, during the height of slavery in the U.S.

Later that day, however, the controversy kicked off when White, who is Black, came into the picture after telling Rolling Stone that neither the band nor its management team had contacted her seeking her approval or blessing in co-existing as Lady A.

“This is my life. Lady A is my brand, I’ve used it for over 20 years, and I’m proud of what I’ve done,” she told the outlet.

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“How can you say Black Lives Matter and put your knee on the neck of another Black artist?” White wrote in a followup Instagram post.

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The band then made an effort to connect “privately” with White about their name-sharing conundrum on June 15.

Both Lady As later took to their respective social media platforms sharing a screenshot of a joint video call together, ultimately suggesting they had made amends.

They wrote that they had had “transparent, honest, and authentic conversations” about finding a “positive solution” to co-existing together.

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White, however, didn’t seem to be thrilled with those conversations, as revealed in an interview with Newsday the next day. Before making her US$10-million demand, the singer told the outlet she was “not happy” with a “draft agreement” she had received from “the Antebellum camp.”

Despite her quick change in tune, the parties’ initial negotiations not only resulted in a peaceful coexistence as Lady A, but also a planned future musical collaboration between the artists — which they were in the midst of writing — as seen in the legal filing.

Read more: Black blues singer Lady A says Lady Antebellum didn’t ask about name change

In response to the singer’s monetary demand — and their seemingly unsuccessful negotiations — Lady A, expressed sorrow that their “sincere hope to join together with Anita White in unity and common purpose (had) ended.”

Though White has not yet publicly commented on the lawsuit, she reposted another user’s Instagram story to her own account on Wednesday evening, seemingly echoing their frustration with the situation.

The caption read: “You finally realize your name is racially problematic so you shorten it, but then sue the Black woman that has been using that name for almost 2 decades …. That’s some white privilege.”

“Prior to 2020, White did not challenge, in any way, Plaintiffs’ open, obvious, and widespread nationwide and intentional use of the ‘Lady A’ mark,” the attorney for the Just a Kiss hit-makers noted in the lawsuit.

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Global News has reached out to a representative of Lady A, the singer, seeking comment.

— With files from the Associated Press

adam.wallis@globalnews.ca