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Many thanks for the explanation.

You're welcome!

My familiarity with patents is entirely with those protecting mechanical designs of physical hardware, and application thereof to perform physical functions.

In many cases, physical hardware is protected by what's known as a "design patent" -- which is a whole different beast. The design patent bars an exact copy of the design, but not a similar design.

The standards aspect is new to my understanding as well.

Standards bodies usually come into play when equipment from two or more manufacturers must work together. A standards body may be a governmental agency, but more often it is simply a professional organization or a trade association. The Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), for example, has functioned in this capacity for computer interfaces and network protocols. The standards body often also tests equipment for conformance to the standard and issues some sort of certification of compliance.

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