A Black blues singer who has been performing under the name Lady A for decades is countersuing the country music band Lady A, formerly known as Lady Antebellum.
The group announced in June amid racial injustice protests following George Floyd's death that it would be changing its name to Lady A because the word "antebellum" has an association to slavery in the period before the Civil War.
Shortly after the band announced the name change, the Seattle-based singer Anita White told Rolling Stone she was shocked to hear the country music group planned to use the same stage name she has performed under for more than 20 years.
White and the band Lady A connected virtually in search for "positive solutions" in the days following Rolling Stone's story. Three weeks later, on July 8, the band filed a lawsuit against White, alleging she demanded a $10 million payment.
The suit is not seeking monetary damages, instead seeking to allow the band to continue to use the name, Lady A's rep told TODAY. The group says it held the official registered trademark for the moniker since 2011 and have been using it in an official capacity since 2008.
“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,” the band's statement read in part.
White spoke out about Lady A suing her in an interview with TODAY's Sheinelle Jones, saying she feels "dismissed" by the band and does not want to give up her name in the ongoing legal dispute. As for the $10 million, White said it was part of her lawyers’ proposal to the group: She'd use $5 million to rebrand herself and would donate $5 million to Black Lives Matter.
"If you don't think that you're worth it, God bless you. I'm worth every penny that I ask for," she told Sheinelle. "This has never been just about me. If I don't get a dime, I'm gonna continue to do what I do."
In her lawsuit filed Tuesday, White argues that she holds “common law rights” to the name Lady A.
These rights are “based solely on use of the mark in commerce within a particular geographic area,” according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office's definition online. “Common law rights may be stronger than those based on a registration, if the common law use is earlier than the use that supports the registration.”
White also says in her lawsuit that she has used the name Lady A since “at least the early 1990s,” which predates the band’s formation in 2006.
“Ms. White possesses superior common law trademark rights, which precede the existence of Defendants’ band, let alone their alleged LADY A mark,” the suit claims, adding internet searches for “Lady A” are “dominated” by references to the group. “Lady Antebellum’s popularity and resources have enabled them to saturate the market with their LADY A mark and overwhelm the brand identity that Ms. White has developed during decades of use.”
White’s lawsuit makes no mention of the $10 million proposal but does offer her version of events after the former Lady Antebellum announced its name change.
She said she learned of the band’s name change the day it announced it, June 11, when friends texted her and a reporter from Rolling Stone reached her for comment.
“Shortly after Defendants announced their name change, their management company contacted Ms. White to discuss the possibility of coexistence,” the suit claims, adding the band suggested a videoconference meeting that happened June 15.
“During the meeting, the parties considered ways of addressing Ms. White’s concerns,” her lawsuit claims. “The parties were unable to reach a resolution, but that did not stop Defendants from promptly sending Ms. White a draft agreement.”
The band and singer were in the process of negotiating when White decided the agreement "was not in her best interests" because it would’ve let the band use the name Lady A without providing White with compensation and only paying up to $10,000 in legal fees, according to her lawsuit.
White changed lawyers, and according to court documents, her new legal representation presented the band with a new draft agreement on July 6. White's suit says the band did not reply to that draft agreement and instead filed their lawsuit against her on July 8.
The band formerly known as Lady Antebellum had no comment when reached by TODAY.