The legal fight between Seattle blues singer Lady A and the country stars using the same name has taken a new twist.
The Seattle singer filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against the country stars formerly known as Lady Antebellum. The complaint, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle, aims to prevent the Nashville band from using the name Lady A — a moniker it adopted in June after dropping the word “antebellum” from its name amid national conversations around systemic racism.
The suit contends that Seattle’s Lady A — whose real name is Anita White — has accrued common law rights to the Lady A trademark due to the prominent use of the name since at least the early 1990s, and that she has nationwide common law rights to the trademark since she started performing under the name outside of Washington state since at least the early 2000s. The local blues, funk and gospel vet began using the name while singing karaoke in the 1980s.
The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount in damages and an injunction against the country band to halt its use of the name. A representative for the band did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
White and her attorneys contend that the Nashville stars’ use of the Lady A name has made it harder for White to distinguish herself in the marketplace. “Internet and social media searches for ‘Lady A,’ which had readily returned results for her music, were now dominated by references to Lady Antebellum. Ms. White’s Lady A brand has been usurped and set on a path to erasure,” the complaint alleges.
After Nashville’s Lady A learned of the Seattle singer, the two sides discussed ways to amicably proceed. Negotiations broke down after White’s camp proposed a $10 million settlement — half of which she would use to rebrand herself and half to be given to various charities of her choosing. In July, the country band initiated a lawsuit asking the courts to affirm its right to the name “Lady A,” a trademark the band first registered for in 2010, according to the complaint. The band did not seek any monetary damages from White, nor did it aim to stop her from using the name. Lady A has long been a nickname for the group that released its debut album in 2008.
“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 at the time. “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.”
In an interview with The Seattle Times this summer, White described the fight for the name as an issue bigger than herself. She criticized the Nashville stars for eclipsing a Black artist with a gesture ostensibly meant to show their allyship.
“I’ve been working my butt off since before those kids were born,” White said in a previous interview. “But your privilege is going to allow you to take something from me or … decide that I have to share the name with you, knowing full well that … you’re going to wipe me off social media, therefore you are still taking from me.”