A lot rides on the V&T name | NevadaAppeal.com

A lot rides on the V&T name

Becky Bosshart
Appeal Staff Writer

Rebuilding a 16-mile tourist railway from Gold Hill to Carson City has stirred contention in many areas – right down to what the railroad will be called.

With the completion date nearing, the Virginia City businessman who owns a federal and state trademark for the name “Virginia & Truckee Railway” is willing to part with his license to help the railroad, even if that means donating it.

For more than 40 years, the Curtis family of Virginia City has owned a Nevada corporation with that name and the trademarks. Though they’ve never operated a railroad, Joe Curtis has said that his family’s intention has been to sell souvenirs in connection with the reconstructed historic rail.

“I’m not interested in keeping it,” Curtis said about the trademark. “I’m sure we’ll work out some deal where I can make it available to them. My intent is to make sure that the railroad comes to fruition. If I have to give up something to do it – I’ve made numerous other donations to the railroad.”

When this issue came before the board about a year ago Curtis wasn’t as excited about handing over the name, and even went as far as to suggest that the commission had to negotiate with him or call the rail something different.

A lot is riding on the Virginia & Truckee Railway: an expected $40 million in private donations and public funding, an estimated 160,000 annual tourists and their hefty wallets, and the images of all counties involved in a steam train transporting tourists by 2010.

At a meeting this week of the Nevada Commission for the Reconstruction of the V&T Railway, some commissioners said they wanted to get the name issue with Curtis settled as quickly as possible.

Bob Hadfield, V&T board chairman, said Wednesday that the board could either strike an agreement with the Gray family, who owns the two-mile railroad in Virginia City and federal trademark for “Virginia & Truckee Railroad,” or Curtis.

“Right now we’re concentrating our focus and energy on securing the necessary land for right-of-way and improvements that we need to complete the construction of the railroad,” Hadfield said. “And we’re working parallel on these other issues, but they are more complicated.”

Commission attorney Mike Rowe is working on the name issue, Hadfield said.

“We would welcome any donations people would be ready to give,” he said. “We will continue discussions with Mr. Curtis as to the use of the Virginia & Truckee Railway name.”

Curtis has the name trademarked for use in cups, plates, T-shirts, hats and coats, according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. An intellectual property expert said a trademark for souvenirs is quite different from one for an operating railway.

“He couldn’t prevent the railway from using the mark for railway services,” said Incline Village attorney Lara Pearson, who is also the chairwoman of the intellectual property law section of the State Bar of Nevada.

Curtis could prevent the railway from selling similar merchandise that he places his mark on, she said. And they couldn’t get around it by using the acronym. Pearson would argue that legally V&T Railway is the same as Virginia & Truckee Railway.

• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at bbosshart@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.