White claims the country trio is “trying to erase” her
Blues artist Anita “Lady A” White is countersuing country trio Lady A for trademark infringement after neither party came to terms over the trio’s name change earlier this summer. In May, the white country trio — featuring Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and David Haywood — dropped Antebellum from its name during the height of racial inequality in America, citing the term “antebellum” as a slave reference. Ironically, White, a black Seattle-based blues artist, has been performing and releasing music under the moniker for more than 30 years.
The GRAMMY-winning trio, which has used both Lady Antebellum and Lady A interchangeably since its inception, has held a trademark on the name for more than a decade. After negotiations fell apart in June, White’s team requested a $10 million buyout for the use of the name. In return, the band filed a lawsuit in a Nashville courtroom asking for a declaration that the trio lawfully use the Lady A trademark, while White also shares the name and retaining her own rights within federal and state laws. The band is not asking for a monetary reward, however, White feels like she was forced into countersuing for trademark infringement and unfair competition.
“The effect of the name change on Ms. White’s ability to distinguish her music in the marketplace was overwhelming,” the suit says obtained by Rolling Stone. “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 had been usurped and set on the path to erasure.”
White followed her suit in the U.S. District Court’s Western District of Washington against Kelley, David and Scott alongside Lady A Entertainment, LLC. In the suit, White claims that she has “nationwide common law rights in the trademark Lady A in connection with music and entertainment services in the nature of musical performances,” and that her ownership predates “any rights in the Lady A mark allegedly owned by Lady Antebellum.”
White claims that using the Lady A name infringes her trademark rights, as both groups are using identical marks. White also alleges that she has “lost sales, diminished brand identity, and diminution in the value of and goodwill associated with the mark” since the trio began using the name earlier this summer.
In mid-June, we spoke to White and her producer, John Oliver III, on The Music Universe Podcast, who revealed that there was never clarity on how both entities would “co-exist” without White getting buried, and why she was cornered into asking for $10 million for a name buyout.
“I don’t believe in co-exisiting, at least with Lady Antebellum. I did not want to co-exist, and that’s what they wanted me to do and I didn’t want to do that. I kept asking, ‘What does co-existance look like?’. The question was never answered,” White tells us.
“I started to begin to feel like they were being disingenuous, because nobody would address my question. We talked about the algorithms, because if you’re Lady A and I’m Lady A, you’re gonna wipe me out, which is exactly what happened. I said, ‘You’re gonna bury me.’ And they kept saying, ‘Oh no, we’re gonna make sure you don’t get buried, and let’s do a song together.’ Yeah, that would’ve been all nice, but I’m worried about the twenty some plus years that I’ve been in this business that I’ve grinded from the bottom up, and was very happy where I was. Just because I don’t have 40 thousand fans and you do, doesn’t make my fans less relevant.”
White says if they want to take her name, they need to pay for it. She’s requesting $10 million for the name usage in which $5 million will go towards a complete rebranding of herself and name, and $5 million split between three charities: Black Lives Matter, an organization helping seniors and youth in the Seattle area, and to a legal defense organization that helps small artists with issues similar to her own.
Reps for the country trio have yet to publicly comment on the countersuit as of this writing. More details as they become available.