Trio files complaint in Nashville
Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and David Haywood, known professionally as Lady A and formerly as Lady Antebellum, have filed a lawsuit against Seattle blues artist Anita White, also known professionally as Lady A. Billboard reports that the suit was filed in Nashville after White’s “attempt to enforce purported trademarks rights in a mark that Plaintiffs have held for more than a decade.”
The suit alleges that on July 7th White’s new counsel “delivered a draft settlement agreement that included an exorbitant monetary demand,” after conversations broke down between the band and the singer. A dollar amount is not mentioned, although a statement by the trio says the price tag is $10 million.
“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,” the group says in a statement.
It continues, “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.”
Last month, the group dropped Antebellum from its name during the height of racial inequality in America. White, who has performed as Lady A for more than 20 years, told Rolling Stone at the time that she was blindsided by the band shortening its name, and wasn’t consulted.
A week later, the country trio connected privately via Zoom with the blues singer to rectify the name change so both entities could co-exist. Following the meeting, the group shared, “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.”
White later told Newsday that “their camp is trying to erase me…. Trust is important and I no longer trust them.” Billboard says communication broke down as talks fell apart which included both artists possibly writing and recording a song together, and the trio promoting White’s career.
The group has used both Lady Antebellum and Lady A interchangeably since its inception. In May 2010, the group applied to register Lady A with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for entertainment purposes, including live musical performances and streaming musical programming. No opposition was filed by any person or entity, so the application was registered more than a year later on July 26, 2011. The suit includes several references to the band as Lady A through the years, including a page from its website 2008 where it used Lady A.
The suit acknowledges that the solo artist Lady A has used the name for recorded music and live performance since 2010. However, it claims White never filed Lady A as a trademark for herself, unless it was after the trio secured its trademark for the name. It claims the band’s counsel had prepared a draft agreement that would allow both artists to continue sharing the name and supporting White’s musical career, but White’s council delivered an updated draft that included an “exorbitant monetary demand while maintaining the cooperation and collaboration obligations.”
“Paired with White’s public statements, White’s demand for an exorbitant payment in exchange for continued coexistence, notwithstanding the previous absence of discussion of any payment (other than reimbursement of nominal attorneys’ fees), gives rise to imminent controversy, demonstrating a course of action from which a threat of suit could be inferred based on White’s charge of infringement,” the band’s suit states.
The band isn’t asking for any money, but only for a court declaration that the trio lawfully use the Lady A trademark it was granted a decade ago while White also shares the name while retaining her own rights within federal and state laws.