Since 2000, Capital One Financial — the nation’s largest direct bank – has been promoting its credit card services by asking What’s in Your Wallet? Three years later it began promoting banking and other financial services using the same iconic tagline, slogan, and question. By 2011, it had achieved so much traction that What’s in Your Wallet? was inducted into the Advertising Walk of Fame as one of the 16 Greatest Slogans in History.

Given what I recently saw on Boylston Street in Boston, the question might need to be updated to take into account the Capital One 360 Cafés popping up across the country.

Blending credit card, banking, and financial services with restaurant and cafe services appears groundbreaking for a financial services brand. Capital One 360 invites consumers to ”Swing by a Café today and discover a bank disguised as a place you’d actually like to be.” Their Twitter page reads: “Saving money should be as easy as grabbing a coffee. We’re not just another bank, we’re a community space for you. Stop by, grab a coffee, say hi & save a bit.” Their website goes on, “Let’s Make Banking History”:

“At Capital One 360®, we believe banking should fit comfortably into everyday life. That’s why we’re not just online and mobile; we can now be found in Cafés opening across Boston. A place where you can get your banking questions answered or simply recharge your lives with free WiFi, tips on saving time & money, and freshly-brewed Peet’s Coffee®. See for yourself how together we can challenge every preconception of what a bank can be.”

It will be interesting to follow this generous offering of space and free services to see whether the business model can be sustained, as there are some skeptics in the crowd, given the high cost of real estate and the usual expense of operating retail locations. It’s notable that St. Cloud, Minnesota already landed a Capital One 360 Café, not the Twin Cities yet, but perhaps Cafés are on the way to us too!

Marketing types, if you’ve seen this concept executed before by another financial services or banking brand, please let us know, because it appears to be a novel undertaking for a credit card and bank brand. It remains to be seen, however, whether this creative and engaging brand extension will disrupt the category and force competitors to follow suit.

Extending credit card brands to provide restaurant reservation services is nothing new, but before seeing the Capital One 360 Café in Boston, I haven’t seen any credit card brand serving up actual restaurants or cafes themselves. For example, American Express, Visa, and Mastercard all have been providing restaurant reservation services for some time.

So, imagine my surprise to learn that Visa actually has a federal registration for the VISA mark in connection with “restaurant services” — without qualification or limitation.

The 2008 specimen of use in the prosecution history at the USPTO is questionable to say the least. Indeed, it appears the more recent description of services covering Visa’s single-letter V mark is a little more intellectually honest, given the submitted specimen of use: “Restaurant services, namely, restaurant reservation services, and restaurant ratings and reviews, providing information in the field of fine dining restaurants and fine dining events.” It will be interesting to follow whether Visa modifies the “restaurant services” description when it files a Section 8 & 15 Declaration for VISA in Int’l Class 43.

Having said all that, for the trademark nerds in the crowd, if this Capital One 360 brand extension is really ground-breaking and intended to “make banking history,” you’d think the appropriate trademark filings would be there to support the new services, right?

It was more than a bit surprising, especially considering how robust the Capital One trademark portfolio is, to find no coverage of record at the USPTO for any cafe or restaurant services, under any of their marks. Any ideas why? Hopefully this is not an indication of Capital One’s limited commitment to this new offering.

With brand extensions as far afield is this one appears to be, it’s even more important to lock up the rights early to facilitate a more graceful geographic expansion of the concept.

Hopefully for Capital One, it won’t encounter (during its expansion) any local owner of conflicting trademark rights who is inclined to ask Capital One, by the way, ”What’s in Your Wallet?”