Why is Lady Antebellum Suing Lady A?

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Country group, Lady A, formerly known as Lady Antebellum, has filed suit against Seattle blues singer Anita White, also known as Lady A. The feud started when Lady Antebellum decided to change their stage name to Lady A, because of the term Antebellum and its ties to slavery periods. The only issue is, there is already an artist that goes by the name Lady A, and she’s been around for over 20 years.

Why did Lady Antebellum Change Their Name?

Band members, Hillary Scott, Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley announced last month that they decided to change their group name after using it for their nearly 14-year career. The reason for the new name stemmed from the term “Antebellum” and its association to the pre-civil war period and its extensive link to slavery. However, the band released in a statement on social media that the name’s ancillary meaning was not initially known to them when they started out. In fact, they stated that “Antebellum” was actually chosen because of the southern style home they took their original group photos in as an official band. Nonetheless, the name has alternate connotations that the band later found to be deeply saddening, which prompted their new name, Lady A.

What is Lady Antebellum Suing Lady A for?

After the band and the Seattle based artist posted images of their good-natured Zoom call together, they announced that they were excited to share “positive solutions and common ground.” However, it seems that end resulted in anything but common ground, considering the fact that Lady Antebellum recently filed suit against the blues singer for declaratory judgment. The band claims that amicable resolutions to coexist were underway and settlement negotiations were apparent between both parties’ attorneys. Until suddenly, Lady A flipped a switch and demanded $10 million dollars from the country group. Not only did it come by surprise, but the band interpreted the demand as a potential threat of having an infringement suit filed against them. Which is why they beat Lady A to the punch and filed a declaratory judgment suit in order to affirm their rights and the validity of their newly registered trademarks. The country group essentially wants declaration that both artists are entitled to use the name.

Who Will Win the Trademark Battle?

In the eyes of trademark law, a non-registered trademark would have difficulty upholding against a federally registered trademark, except for the instance where the non-registered mark can be demonstrated to have been used in the stream of commerce for a consecutive amount of years. In Lady A’s case, the suit against her reveals that she in fact never registered her name with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. However, the country group just recently registered their new name in 2020. So, who would win the priority battle? The court has yet to address this case, but it may be difficult to distinguish entitlements. Although the singer has no federal trademark rights, she has common law rights, and the fact that she has been around for over 20 years would exponentially help her argument. As she was essentially first to use the name, her superior rights may be justified against country group, Lady Antebellum.

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*Disclaimer: this blog post is not intended to be legal advice. We highly recommend speaking to an attorney if you have any legal concerns. Contacting us through our website does not establish an attorney-client relationship.*

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Eric Gros-Dubois

Eric P. Gros-Dubois founded EPGD Business Law in 2013 and is the current head of the firm’s corporate, estate planning, and tax practice, and manages the firm’s Washington D.C. office. With a JD and MBA, and a specialization in finance, Eric is able to step back and view the legal world through a commercial lens while also acting as a trusted business advisor for his clients. He does his best to be solutions oriented, and tries to think like a business owner, not just a lawyer.


*The following comments are not intended to be treated as legal advice. The answer to your question is limited to the basic facts presented. Additional details may heavily alter our assessment and change the answer provided. For a more thorough review of your question please contact our office for a consultation.

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