VIRGINIA CITY - No one really won the name "World Famous Mustang Ranch" at Tuesday's meeting of the Storey County brothel licensing board.
The board decided to give the name to both parties jostling for it - at least until a federal court rules otherwise.
Storey County Commissioner Greg "Bum" Hess said Tuesday that Lance Gilman and David Burgess, both of whom operate brothels in the county, can use the name until the federal court for the Nevada district decides on the trademark case. That decision should determine who owns the notorious name of Nevada's first legal bordello.
Until then, businessman and developer Gilman can operate a World Famous Mustang Ranch brothel beside his Wild Horse Adult Resort & Spa off Interstate 80, east of Reno.
Gilman bought the Mustang Ranch property and its name on eBay for $145,000 from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The old brothel was carried in pieces by truck and helicopter to its new home beside the Wild Horse.
Hess abstained from voting because he is a builder and often contracts with Gilman. Vice Chairman John Flanagan didn't cast a vote. Storey County Sheriff Pat Whitten, on a conference call from Sacramento, made the motion, which was seconded by Chairman Bob Kershaw.
"Storey County commissioners chose to reward neither with sole use of the World Famous Mustang Ranch name," Hess said. "We decided to let them both kind of share the name at this time, until the court rules who's actually the owner of that name."
It's a fine solution for now, said Lara Pearson, attorney for Burgess.
"We've always known that the (trademark) issue will be decided by the federal court," she said. "We were more concerned with the process being taken on by Storey County while the litigation is going on."
Burgess attempted to officially rename his Old Bridge Ranch brothel the Mustang Ranch several times, but the commission kept tabling it, his attorney said. Although Burgess' business license says Old Bridge Ranch, he put a Mustang Ranch sign up outside his brothel, which is located on the same parcel of land where Joe Conforte had the first World Famous Mustang Ranch.
Burgess also adopted from Nevada Bell the original Mustang Ranch phone number in August 2000, Pearson said.
Oscar Williams, owner of Ambient Entertainment in Reno, said he is disappointed in the commission's decision. He declined to comment further on the issue. Ambient Entertainment manufactures and sells merchandise with the Mustang Ranch logo. Williams has told the board he has the rights to the registered Mustang Ranch trademark for clothing and other merchandise, and Gilman's use of the name would affect his business.
Gilman plans to open a gift shop and sell Mustang Ranch merchandise from his new brothel. He said the federal court will probably take years to decide the issue. It has been in litigation for about a year.
"We'll open the Mustang Ranch buildings and we'll be officially open as the World Famous Mustang Ranch," Gilman said.
The new brothel will open in January with about 30 prostitutes, 20 rooms and a parlor.
"I am disappointed in the board's decision only because if you look at the law, I have a bill of sale and deed from the U.S. government that names me as the owner," he said. "They did that in Dec. 22 of 2003 and I am the only person who actually, legally has a right to the name. In my opinion the board should've honored that and issued me the license and not allowed someone else to use it (the name)."
Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.