"Today we are sad to share that our sincere hope to join together with Anita White in unity and common purpose has ended," the band, who has held the Lady A trademark since 2010, said in a statement

By Gabrielle Chung and Sarah Michaud
July 08, 2020 09:25 PM
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The country band formerly known as Lady Antebellum, which changed its name to Lady A in June, has filed a lawsuit against Seattle-based blues artist Anita White, who has been performing under the moniker Lady A.

In a filing submitted on Wednesday to Nashville’s U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee and obtained by PEOPLE, attorneys for the band alleged that White's new legal counsel "delivered a draft settlement agreement that included an exorbitant monetary demand" after the two parties had a discussion about "continued coexistence" under the name Lady A.

Though a dollar figure was not listed in the suit, the band said in a statement that White had asked for $10 million. A rep for White, and the firm listed as her legal counsel in the suit, did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment

"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 — which consists of Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood — said in the statement.

Lady A, Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood
John Shearer/Getty Images. Inset:Midwest Records

"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."

Dave Haywood, Hillary Scott, and Charles Kelley
Taylor Hill/Getty

The band continued, "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."

On June 11, the band announced that they were dropping the "Antebellum" from their name to make it more "inclusive" as the word had associations "referring to the period of history before the Civil War, which includes slavery."

Days later, the group shared on Instagram that they "connected privately" with White after learning how she has been using the name Lady A for decades.

"Transparent, honest, and authentic conversations were had," the band captioned a screenshot from their Zoom call. "We are excited to share we are moving forward with positive solutions and common ground. The hurt is turning into hope. More to come."

In the suit, the band's attorneys claims the two parties "discussed various forms of cooperation" to "peacefully coexist" during the Zoom call — including discussions to write a song together — and the group's counsel had prepared a draft agreement to continue to share the Lady A name.

However, according to the band's attorneys, White then told Newsday she was "not happy" with the agreement and claimed that “their camp is trying to erase me ... Trust is important and I no longer trust them.”

White then obtained new counsel following the discussions, and her legal team allegedly delivered a drafted agreement with an "exorbitant monetary demand while maintaining the cooperation and collaboration obligations," according to the filing.

"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 suit read.

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The band's counsel said in the filing that the group has used Lady A interchangeably with Lady Antebellum as early as 2006 and applied to register Lady A for entertainment purposes — including live musical performances and streaming musical programming — at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2010.

The band later applied to register the name Lady A for musical recordings and clothing, according to the suit, and their applications were all granted without opposition from any person or entity.

The band's attorneys said White "did not oppose" to any of the applications and "has not sought to cancel and of the LADY A registrations."

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"Prior to 2020, White did not challenge, in any way, Plaintiffs' open, obvious, and widespread nationwide and intentional use of the LADY A mark as a source indicator for Plaintiffs' recorded, downloadable, and streaming music and videos, Plaintiffs' live musical performances, or Plaintiffs' sale of souvenir merchandise," the suit read.

The band is not asking for money, according to the suit, but seeking a court declaration that they are lawfully using the Lady A trademark and that the continual usage of the name does not infringe on any trademark rights White may legally hold or her "non-trademark use of 'Lady A' to identify herself as a musical performer."

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