[U] Perhaps A Tangent — But We Will Follow This Case Closely: Using “Healing” To Steal A Black Blues Artist’s Stage Name… Peak 2020!

Okay. First, the caveats: I started following this as a result of a Twitter battle (almost always a bad idea!). Next, to be fair. . . the white country artists say they are simply filing suit to allow the group to use the name, without compensating the “prior in time under common law” blues singer, for the use of her stage name. The blues singer (it is claimed, by the white country band) asked for unreasonable compensation, to release her own name, in consistent use since at least 2000.

That’s as fair as I can possibly. . . be.

But — in the land of karmic justice — let me just mention here that the blues artist’s next CD drops on July 18, 2020 — do go out and buy it!

To be clear, I am covering it here because in early June, the country artists dropped “Antebellum” from their official name, saying the term’s ties to slavery were not what they wanted to project, in 2020, in view of the #BLM movement.

The country artists said at the time they wanted to be more inclusive. But the group was apparently unaware that a Black female blues artist had performed exclusively under the stage name since at least 2000, under common law. She invested decades in that identity. So it is not at all unreasonable that the price for releasing that identity might be $10 million, where a top of the charts country group with millions of fans might be “acquiring” it.

Putting aside the hideous optics of the country band’s stance (not in any manner an ally, of Black Lives… Mattering), we actually expect this will not go to trial. The band will need to pay up, as a matter of law. But as I say, the Twitterverse may cause the end of it, even sooner than that. Updated: here on Friday, the Real Lady A told CNN that $5 million of the amount was to be a charitable donation to Black Lives Matters. . . and the rest would allow her to restart her career under a new name. The country artist balked at that idea last week, and filed suit this week. End, update.

Here is the country band’s suit in the federal courts in the Middle District of Tennessee (Nashville) — the first preliminary scheduling conference will be on August 24, 2020 — and a bit, from the filing:

. . . .Anita White (“White”) is an individual who is a citizen and resident of Seattle, Washington. White is a blues, soul, and funk musician who — according to publicly available information — has performed live music in the Pacific Northwest, particularly Seattle, and in various locations throughout the United States, including a recent performance in January of 2020 at the “Her Majesty Presents 2020 Showcase” in Tennessee. White markets herself as frequently performing in Memphis. . . .

This case arises from White’s attempt to enforce purported trademark rights in a mark that Plaintiffs have held for more than a decade. Plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment that, among other things, their use of their trademarks incorporating “Lady A” do not infringe any of White’s alleged trademark rights in “Lady A.” Plaintiffs [the country artists] do not seek monetary damages through this action. . . .

I should note that the Real Lady A — as an admittedly smaller-footprint blues singer — has common law rights that predate the registered mark of the country band, by nearly a decade.

Trust that I will keep the readership informed — but someone gave the country artists. . . some very poor advice (on optics, business rights management, and legal dimensions), here. They will lose, in a trademark opposition proceeding, should it be filed by Cooley LLP, which firm represents the Real Lady A. Onward, grinning. . . [that’s a Paul Gauguin sculpture/wooden mask, from Paris, on loan to Chicago of late, at above-right, BTW. . . .]


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