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Lady A sues Lady A over the name Lady A

By | Published on Wednesday 16 September 2020

Lady A

Lady A has sued Lady A, who you may remember previously sued Lady A, in the ongoing dispute between Lady A and Lady A over the rights to the use of the name Lady A. Lady A is yet to comment on Lady A’s lawsuit. And if you’re confused by all this, well, that’s kind of the point of this litigation.

If it helps, this dispute is between Lady A the singer and Lady A the band. As you may remember, Lady A the band were previously officially known as Lady Antebellum until they changed their name in the midst of the most recent round of Black Lives Matter protests. ‘Antebellum’, see, refers to an era in US history that saw the rapid economic growth of the southern states aided in large part by a reliance on slavery.

That name change announcement came as something of a surprise to Lady A the singer, aka Anita White, who – although not so well known – had been performing and releasing music under that name for more than 20 years. She quickly hit out at Lady A the band’s decision to rebrand without first checking if anyone else was already using their new moniker.

Lady A the band then reached out to Lady A the singer and for a moment it looked like there could be a speedy happy ending to this dispute. A deal was proposed where both the band and the singer could continue using the name, the band would take responsibility for ensuring there was no confusion on digital platforms, and maybe there could be a Lady A featuring Lady A collaboration.

However, Lady A the singer wasn’t happy with the written agreement that came out of those discussions. She hired new legal representation which wrote an alternative agreement, allegedly including a $10 million pay off for their client. Having received that proposal, Lady A the band went legal in July.

Although no one disputes that Lady A the singer has been using the name longer, the band pointed out that they had used that name as an informal alternative to Lady Antebellum pretty much ever since they formed in 2006. As a result, they had registered trademarks for the Lady A brand with the US trademark registry, the first such registration being filed in 2010.

Therefore, the band argued, they, not Lady A the singer, had the legal right to use the name for performing and releasing music in the US. Which made their offer to allow Lady A the singer to also continue using the name very generous.

And now comes the countersuit, filed by Lady A the singer, seeking exclusive rights to use the name and damages for the confusion already caused by the band since their rebrand in June.

What about the band’s trademarks that Lady A the singer never objected to before though? Well, at the heart of the new lawsuit is the argument that Lady A the singer has “accrued common law rights” in the name simply by using it for so long.

The lawsuit says that she actually started using the name Lady A as a karaoke singer in Seattle in the late 1980s and started performing as Lady A beyond her home state of Washington from the early 2000s.

Lady A the singer “accrued common law rights in the Lady A trademark … as a result of her long, continuous, and prominent use of the Lady A mark since at least the early 1990s”, says the lawsuit, before adding: “Ms White’s nationwide common law trademark rights date to at least as early as the early 2000s, when she first began performing extensively outside of the state of Washington”.

Those common law rights in the Lady A mark, the new lawsuit concludes, supersede any trademarks Lady A the band may have formally registered. It’s an interesting argument. And it will be interesting to see it tested should this whole matter ever actually get to court.