–Sharon Armstrong, Attorney

Most of us trademark and marketing types are used to extolling the virtues of a strong brand to our clients – “invest, protect, and build goodwill,” we tell them, “and you’ll be on the way to a valuable brand.” This philosophy used to hold true even when times were tough – K-mart, Chrysler, and just about any airline you can think of (save Southwest) has gone from bull market to bankruptcy or bailout with their reputations and brands at least intact, if not sparkling.

Will we see well-known, perhaps even famous brands bounce back the same way this time around?

On April 2, a financial subsidiary of American International Group Inc. (aka AIG, the belle of the bailout ball), survived a preliminary injunction hearing regarding its use of the name and mark “SagePoint.” The Indiana court found that the plaintiff, Sagemark Consulting, has only a “modest” likelihood of success on its claim. See Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. d/b/a Sagemark Consulting v. SagePoint Financial Inc. f/k/a AIG Financial Advisors Inc., N.D. Ind., No. 1:09-CV-15RM, 4/2/09.

Putting the facts of the case aside, it remains to be seen just how many entities – whether they receive a lifeline through bailout funds or declare bankruptcy and die to be reborn as something new – will watch their old glory fade and jettison their now scandal-ridden brands for new corporate identities. Equally unknown is whether consumers will view such rebranding as a nod to a new way of doing business or whether they will see only wolves in sheep’s clothing.