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Lady A sue Lady A over the name Lady A

By | Published on Thursday 9 July 2020

Lady A

The Lady As are going legal. Lady A the band want confirmation that they can continue to use that name without the risk of Lady A the singer suing them. To achieve this, they have sued Lady A the singer. Fun times!

Lady A the band were, of course, until last month officially known as Lady Antebellum. But they changed their name in the midst of the most recent round of Black Lives Matter protests. The antebellum era in the US was a period of rapid economic growth in the southern states during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, aided in large part by a reliance on slavery.

When announcing their big rebrand, the band said that they had originally decided to use the ‘antebellum’ word in their name during a very early photo shoot in a southern ‘antebellum style’ home. It wasn’t intended as a celebration of that era in history at all, but they were now “regretful and embarrassed” by their moniker.

The band and their fans had used Lady A as an informal alternative name pretty much ever since the outfit formed in 2006. But following the official rebrand it emerged that a soul singer called Anita White had been performing under the name Lady A for more than two decades. And she wasn’t happy with the other Lady A now being officially called Lady A.

She told Rolling Stone: “Lady A is my brand, I’ve used it for over 20 years, and I’m proud of what I’ve done … [Changing their name is] an opportunity for them to pretend they’re not racist or pretend [the Black Lives Matter movement] means something to them. If it did, they would’ve done some research. And I’m not happy about that. [Rolling Stone] found me on Spotify easily – why couldn’t they?”

“I’m not about to stop using my name”, she went on. “For them to not even reach out is pure privilege. I’m not going to lay down and let this happen to me. But now the burden of proof is on me to prove that my name is in fact mine, and I don’t even know how much I’ll have to spend to keep it”.

Lady A the band quickly put out a statement saying that they were previously unaware of Lady A the singer, but that they had now reached out to White.

Both Lady As then posted a screengrab of an online meeting between all parties. Lady A the singer said she was “so glad to speak with these amazing young people”, while the band said that they were all “moving forward with positive solutions and common ground”. There was seemingly talk of both Lady As happily co-existing and even a Lady A featuring Lady A collaboration.

However, the “positive solutions” seemingly stalled once lawyers started trying to get that “common ground” down into writing. White told Newsday earlier this month that she wasn’t happy with a draft agreement that she had been sent by Lady A the band. She seemingly then hired new legal representation who started making financial demands.

On 7 Jul, a lawsuit filed by Lady A the band says, “without any discussion or context”, White’s new lawyer “delivered a draft settlement agreement that included an exorbitant monetary demand, while maintaining the cooperation and collaboration obligations”. It’s thought the “exorbitant monetary demand” was $10 million.

Lady A the band “do not wish to prohibit White from performing under the name ‘Lady A’ or otherwise identifying herself as a musical performer named ‘Lady A'”, the lawsuits goes on, “nor do plaintiffs seek any monetary damages whatsoever. Rather, plaintiffs simply wish that the parties continue to co-exist”.

Why do Lady A the band think they should be allowed to co-exist with Lady A the singer though? Well, first because – they argue – they have actually been using the Lady A name since 2006, even if their official brand was Lady Antebellum. The lawsuit provides examples of the band using the Lady A moniker online and media referring to them as Lady A in various reports.

Secondly, they say that both they and White can use the Lady A name without there being any confusion. After all, they argue, Spotify is already fine with there being two Lady As, hosting two Lady A profiles, one with the band’s music, and one with White’s music. (The former has seven million monthly listeners and the latter 166 monthly listeners, they also note, somewhat snarkily).

But most importantly of all, Lady A the band already own the US trademark in Lady A. They first filed a registration with the US trademark registry all the way back in 2010, and subsequently registered the mark in additional categories too.

“White did not oppose any of [the band’s] applications for the Lady A mark”, they state. “White has not sought to cancel any of the Lady A registrations. [And] 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”.

So, there you have it. The band’s argument is basically that, while White may have been performing under the Lady A name the longest, they have been using the name for more than a decade and control the relevant trademarks in the brand.

They also insist that they have only gone legal because of correspondence from White’s lawyers that suggested they were also considering litigation.

The band want the court to confirm that their Lady A trademarks are “valid, subsisting, and incontestable”, and to rule that “plaintiffs’ use of the Lady A mark does not and would not infringe upon or otherwise violate any of White’s claimed rights in ‘Lady A’, including any trade names or common law rights”.

Lady A have spoken. We now await a response from Lady A.