Last month in a move to distance itself from its name’s association with slavery, the country music group LADY ANTEBELLUM (the country group) had decided to drop the word ANTEBELLUM from its name. In a post on the country group’s Twitter, the group is moving forward together and stronger as LADY A—a nickname that the group’s fans have been giving them for years.

The country group states that they originally named their group for the antebellum architecture seen in many homes and mansions in the decades leading up to the Civil War. However, the country group stated that it did not consider the term ANTEBELLUM associations with slavery during that same period.

Antebellum style home of an historic plantation located on the Mississippi River

The LADY A Trademark

The country group has several registered trademarks for the mark LADY A, with the earliest filed on May 18, 2010, for the groups “entertainment services.” During the pendency of the application, no one opposed the registration of the trademark, and the country group subsequently filed its Declaration of Incontestability on May 1, 2017.

A Declaration of Incontestability, also known as a Section 15 Declaration, is a signed statement by the trademark owner that claims incontestable rights in a trademark and continuous use for five (5) years. Once a trademark becomes “incontestable,” the marks become much harder to cancel as there are only a limited number of options available for cancellation, such as the mark becoming generic or having gone abandoned.   

The Trademark Infringement Lawsuit

Since changing its name earliest this month, the country group has been attempting to reach an agreement with the blues singer Anita White, who has also been using the name LADY A. However, the country group filed a trademark infringement lawsuit after discussions broke down. Ms. White and her team purportedly demand a $10 million payment.  The country group is also seeking to affirm that its use of LADY A does not infringe any of Ms. White’s “alleged trademark rights,” who has been using the name long before the country group. Additionally, the country group has expressed no desire for Ms. White to be prevented from using LADY A and is not seeking any monetary damages.

Take Away

The lawsuit and initial disagreements between the country group and Ms. White highlights the importance of protecting your intellectual property rights early and often. If Ms. White had filed a trademark application for LADY A for her entertainment services back when she before began using the name, the outcome of this case would likely be much different and substantially less costly.

Intellectual Property rights are time-sensitive, and it is important that you speak with an experienced intellectual property attorney to ensure that your hard-earned intellectual property is protected.