Last month, the popular Nashville country trio Lady Antebellum announced that they were changing their name to Lady A due to the term antebellum’s unfortunate association with slavery. Which was all well and good, except for the fact that there was already a 61-year-old Black woman named Anita White who had been performing as Lady A for decades and wasn’t happy about her name being taken. And now Lady A the band is suing Lady A the singer over their right to use that name.
Billboard reports that attorneys for Lady A(ntebellum) have filed a suit in Nashville’s US District Court For The Middle District Of Tennessee, claiming that White “delivered a draft settlement agreement that included an exorbitant monetary demand” in an “attempt to enforce purported trademarks rights in a mark that Plaintiffs have held for more than a decade.” They’re not asking for any money or for White to stop using the name Lady A, but they want the court to affirm their right to continue using the name and trademark.
“Today we are sad to share that our sincere hope to join together with Anita White in unity and common purpose has ended,” the group says 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 … 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.”
In the suit, the trio says that they have used Lady Antebellum and Lady A interchangeably since as early as 2006-2007 and that their application to register Lady A with the US Patent And Trademark Office was approved in 2011. “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,” the suit states.
“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,” White told Rolling Stone immediately after the band announced the decision to change their name to Lady A. “This is too much right now. They’re using the name because of a Black Lives Matter incident that, for them, is just a moment in time. If it mattered, it would have mattered to them before. It shouldn’t have taken George Floyd to die for them to realize that their name had a slave reference to it.”
Three weeks ago, it seemed like the band and White would be able to come to some sort of amicable agreement. “Today, we connected privately with the artist Lady A,” the trio wrote on 6/15 alongside a screenshot of a Zoom meeting. “Transparent, honest, and authentic conversations were had. We are excited to share we are moving forward with positive solutions and common ground. The hurt is turning into hope. More to come.” A day later, White told Newsday that she was “not happy” with their agreement to share the name and that “their camp is trying to erase me … Trust is important and I no longer trust them.”
Read Lady A the band’s full statement about the current situation below.
Today we are sad to share that our sincere hope to join together with Anita White in unity and common purpose has ended. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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.