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A Trademark Attorney Explains Why the Former Lady Antebellum Is Suing the Black Singer Lady A

In June, the country trio formerly known as Lady Antebellum published a statement saying that they were “regretful and embarrassed” that they had not taken into account the negative associations of the word antebellum and would henceforth be known as Lady A. This change came years after journalists challenged them on their choice of name, but better late than never, right? There was one big problem: A Black blues singer by the name of Anita White had been performing under the name for Lady A for more than 20 years. The situation neatly captured the almost willful ignorance that made the name change necessary in the first place: In trying to respond to criticism several years too late, the good intentions of the Artist Formerly Known as Lady Antebellum erased the livelihood of a Black artist. Still, things seemed to be looking up when the band posted a tweet on June 15 of a Zoom call with White that said, “We are excited to share we are moving forward with positive solutions and common ground.”

But, if the lawsuit the band filed against White this week is any indication, that forward momentum looks to have stalled. Also, the estate of Mr. Rogers might be involved?

To detangle this legal morass, Slate spoke to trademark lawyer and University of New Hampshire professor Alexandra Roberts via phone and email.

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