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Singer Claims She’s the Real ‘Lady A’ in Lawsuit Against Band

Sept. 16, 2020, 1:53 PM

Singer Anita White brought trademark claims against the band formerly known as Lady Antebellum in Seattle federal court based on its name change to Lady A, which White says she’s been performing under for nearly 30 years.

The suit follows the band’s July request for a judgment that it doesn’t infringe White’s trademark in Nashville federal court.

White told the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington that she began her music career in Seattle in the late 1980s and held herself out as Lady A instead of her given name because of her shyness. The new complaint says White has common-law trademark rights in the “Lady A” name dating from the early 1990s based on her “long, continuous, and prominent use” of the mark, and that she has had nationwide rights since at least the early 2000s, when she started performing extensively outside of Washington.

The band said in its July complaint that it registered a federal trademark for “Lady A” in 2010, and the media and its fans have associated it with the name for years. White asserts the band only began performing as “Lady A” in June in the wake of the George Floyd protests, when the name Lady Antebellum “became a public-relations liability that Defendants could no longer ignore.”

“The effect of the name change on Ms. White’s ability to distinguish her music in the marketplace was overwhelming,” White says. “Internet and social media searches for ‘Lady A,’ which had readily returned results for her music, were now dominated by references to Lady Antebellum.” White says her brand was “usurped and set on the path to erasure.”

According to White, she rejected the band’s settlement offer because it would have allowed Lady Antebellum to continue using the “Lady A” name “while providing no compensation to Ms. White—only the promise that Lady Antebellum would make best efforts to assist her career” and reimburse her for legal fees—even though she was represented pro bono—and trademark filings. The band allegedly filed its complaint two days after White sent her proposed settlement.

Causes of Action: Federal trademark infringement, common law trademark infringement, Washington state unfair competition.

Relief: Damages, injunctive relief, attorneys’ fees and costs.

Response: The band didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Attorneys: Cooley LLP represents White.

The case is White v. Lady A Entm’t LLC, W.D. Wash., No. 2:20-cv-01360, complaint filed 9/15/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Blake Brittain in Washington at bbrittain@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com