I’ll start by saying this: Lady Antebellum’s heart seemed to be in the right place.
As you will recall, last month, the band announced that it was changing its name to “Lady A,” which was in recognition of the racially insensitive history of the term “Antebellum.”
The news was applauded, in light of the global outpouring of support for the Black Lives Matter movement and the growing awareness of how little so many of us understand about what it means to be a non-white member of American culture. It’s not cool for a white country music band to be walking around with Antebellum in their name.
But, then, you know what happened next. Anita White, an African American gospel and blues singer in Seattle–and who has long performed as “Lady A”–objected to the name-change.
Side-note: Did nobody do a google search on any of this?
Per Second Lady A’s twitter, the parties had a number of conversations–all friendly (see above)–which became more complicated, as Original Lady A began to recognize that her interests may not be entirely at heart in the band’s move.
Then, well, I’ll let Second Lady A say it: “Today we are sad to share that our sincere hope to join together with Anita White in unity and common purpose has ended.”
To be clear, that date of the end was July 8, 2020, when Second Lady A filed a lawsuit in Nashville federal court, asking the District Court to grant them the right to use the trademark. The lawsuit says that it isn’t asking for money, but, still, it’s a fairly aggressive move. Apparently, Original Lady A asked for $10 million as part of the conversations.
This isn’t Trademark Rights 101 , but I follow really smart lawyers on twitter. Such as this twitter chain by Alexandra Roberts, an Intellectual Property law professor, who analyzes this situation top to bottom.
It’s a really fascinating view into the thought process that a court will consider, both on the facts and relevant law. Read the whole thing…you’ll be smarter by the end of it.
Another issue that I thought was interesting is this: Did Original Lady A submit herself to jurisdiction in Nashville by participating in phone and Zoom video calls, when Second Lady A were physically in Tennessee? Yikes, if that’s the law. Professor Roberts suggests that may be the alleged basis.
So, two quick-takeaways.
(1) This is a terrible look for Second Lady A. Maybe they’re correct as a matter of law, and I’ve just got more to learn about IP law. But, again, what a terrible look for Second Lady A. I tell my clients this all the time: You may be right here, but are there other factors to consider. Should we keep looking for a middle-ground resolution?
(2) I can’t wait for more information on the basis for jurisdiction in Nashville, Tennessee for this lawsuit.