A Famous Country Music Group Sues a Seattle Blued Singer over a Band Name
Exactly who has the right to use the performing name "Lady A" is at issue in a lawsuit filed by one of the most well-known country music acts in the world. The group formerly known as Lady Antebellum has sued a Seattle blues singer who does not want to share her stage name with the band. The country group wants a judge to declare that it has the trademark on the name and that both artists are allowed to use it. In the meantime, Lady A wants to be paid by the band for the right to use the name.
The problems began when Lady Antebellum sought to rebrand the group by changing their name. After years of being known by their original name, they decided that their name was racially insensitive in light of the country's reexamination of the national history on race. However, there was already a Seattle-based blues singer who already had that name. The band claims that they had no idea that there was another singer who was using the same name and only learned of it after they announced their proposed name change,
The Two Parties Were Negotiating When the Music Group Filed the Lawsuit
The country music group reached out to the singer to try to negotiate for the use of the name. Initially, the two parties had a Zoom call and believed that they would be able to reach a settlement agreement. However, negotiations went sour. According to Lady Antebellum, Lady A asked for a $10 million payment in settlement negotiations. The band rejected the settlement offer and instead filed a lawsuit.
While the band may appear to be in a strong legal position given that they have had a trademark on the name for 11 years, this may be a situation where they suffer from the poor optics of the situation. The irony is that, in trying to change the band's name out of racial sensitivity, the band is trying to legally strongarm a Black blues singer. Whether the lawsuit is an attempt by the band to gain the upper hand in settlement negotiations, the publicity surrounding the court action has not been positive. Lady A is framing the issue in racial terms, claiming that the lawsuit is yet another example of a white group coming to take something from a person of color.
Many legal observers were taken by surprise by the group's decision to file the lawsuit. Settlement negotiations were underway and did not appear to break down. It appeared that there was some momentum towards an agreement. In other words, the lawsuit may be premature. Even if the music group ends up winning in court, they may ultimately lose in the court of public opinion and could end up sacrificing some of their crossover appeal.
Lady A does not deny that she sought $10 million from the top-selling country music band. Not only does she readily admit that it was her demand, but she also lays out exactly what her plans were for the money. She has stated that she would take half of the money and use it to rebrand herself. Lady A has been recording for 20 years, and she believes that it would take some investment for her fans to get to know her by a new name. Second, she intended to take half of the payment she would have received from the band and donated to charities supporting the Black community. She wanted to use it to help back independent Black artists as they got their start in the industry.
However, the band obviously felt that her demand was excessive. Now, instead of trying to settle with Lady A, they are seeking to have a judge grant them permission to use the name. The band wasted little time in filing a lawsuit after Lady A presented her $10 million settlement offer.
The Band Argues that They Have Long Held the Trademark
The band's lawsuit now claims that they always had the right to use the name, beginning from the early days of the band. The band states that they applied for a trademark on the name Lady A and were granted it the next year. However, Lady A released her first album in 2010. The country band says that "Lady A" was a well-known shortened name for the group since they first gained national attention back in 2006.
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