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9 Jul, 2020 01:14

Lady Antebellum, renamed ‘Lady A’ in woke PR move, sues black artist who already has the name

Lady Antebellum, renamed ‘Lady A’ in woke PR move, sues black artist who already has the name

Tennessee country rock band Lady A – known as Lady Antebellum before officially renaming itself amid 2020’s cultural purge of references to the Confederacy – is suing a black artist with the same name in a case of peak woke irony.

The band’s lawyers have targeted blues singer Anita White, who also goes by “Lady A,” suing the artist over White’s “attempt to enforce purported trademarks rights in a mark that [the band] have held for more than a decade,” the lawsuit, filed on Wednesday in Nashville’s District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, reads.

The Nashville trio had reportedly been negotiating with the singer before their talks fell through, and White has now “demanded a $10 million payment,” a statement from the band alleges. Lady Antebellum officially changed its name on June 11 following weeks of anti-racism and police brutality protests triggered by the death of George Floyd, announcing it wanted to be “more inclusive.” Antebellum refers to the time period before the US Civil War, which resulted in the abolition of slavery in the US.

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However, Lady Antebellum claimed the band had used the “Lady A” name as early as 2006, citing a page on its website that referred to the nickname and referencing a 2010 filing with the US Patent and Trademark Office. With no opposition to their registering the trademark for “entertainment purposes, including live musical performances and streaming musical programming” – plus later expansions into musical recordings and clothing – the band insisted its ownership of the name was uncontested.

Prior to 2020, White did not challenge, in any way, [the band’s] open, obvious, and widespread nationwide and international use of the LADY A mark as a source indicator” for its music, performances, or merchandise, the suit alleged – as if the Seattle-based blues singer would have been following the legal filings of a band on the other side of the country.

White, who has released several albums as Lady A, had harsh words for the country rock band she claimed was opportunistically piggybacking off “a moment in time” represented by the Black Lives Matter protests sweeping the nation. “If it mattered, it would have mattered to them before,” she told Rolling Stone, adding “It shouldn’t have taken George Floyd to die for them to realize their name had a slave reference to it.

While the band’s lawyers acknowledged White had performed under the name “Lady A” since at least 2010, using the name to tour and sell her music over streaming services, they pointed out that she had not trademarked the name – or if she had attempted to do so, she’d applied after Lady Antebellum had already nabbed it.

However, music attorneys who spoke to Rolling Stone pointed out that White had a “common law trademark” as she’d been first to use the name in commerce. The 61-year-old singer adopted the Lady A name singing karaoke in the 1980s – long before Lady Antebellum formed in 2006 – and has performed under the name throughout the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere under the moniker ever since.

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The dueling Ladies had apparently attempted to work out a legal agreement following Lady Antebellum’s name change after White called them out for allegedly stealing her name, a pact which included “continuing to share the name and supporting White’s musical career.” However, the blues singer told Newsday last month that she “no longer trust[ed]” the band, claiming “their camp is trying to erase me.” She told Rolling Stone that she had a business trademark for Lady A LLC, slamming the chart-topping country band for failing to even run a search before adopting her stage name as their own. “For them to not even reach out is pure privilege,” she said.

Lady Antebellum changed its name to Lady A, “the nickname our fans gave us almost from the start,” last month amid a massive cultural backlash against references to the Confederacy that has included the pulling down of monuments and attempts to rename US military bases. Fellow country band the Dixie Chicks followed suit less than a week later, renaming itself “the Chicks” in a move that was widely mocked.

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