How do volume control headphones work?

I hope that you don't think for my question is so silly, of course it might be silly in this forum. I'm new at here, have a little bit nervous.
Background for question: yesterday I've read a question that from Android Enthusiasts: I have the V-Moda Crossfade LP headphones, which have convenient volume buttons. They work great on my iPhone, but on my Nexus 7 they seem to have no effect. They even work on Windows XP, 7, and Mac. How can I make them work on Android too. That got me to wondering how volume control headphones work.
I don't mean volume control which works by attenuating the incoming signal, but the kind of volume control that signals to the device to increase or decrease the signal output.

For instance, according to the Crossfade LP product page, the volume controls are only for apple devices:

Universal Compatibility and Microphone Communication LP comes with 2 cables for universal compatibility with all modern mobile and audio devices. The 3-Button remote microphone cable is designed for the latest Apple devices, including iPhone®,iPad®, iPod®, and Macbook series. The long audio-only cable and 1/4" adapter is universally compatible with all audio devices and professional equipment.
However this sort of device apparently works with some android phones and the question implies that it works with some computer sound cards on Windows machines too, but not being an Apple buyer (and only recently getting my first smartphone) I haven't seen this sort of thing before. I've done a quick google search, but can't find anything on standards for this technology.
  • How does this work?
  • Is it something as simple as shorting left/right/mic channels?
  • If so, could using headphones of this type with equipment that doesn't support this technology, damage that equipment?
  • Is it a serial signal, for instance sent over the mic channel?
  • Does it just require a headphone TRS connector or a headphone +microphone TRRS connector?
  • Does this technique have a name? Incidentally, is someone could answer this, I can probably look up the rest of the information myself. *8')
  • Is it as standard as it appears, or is everyone just following Apple?
  • Is this something that is patented?
  • If so, who holds the patent and do they charge a license fee for people to use this technology?
  • If not, is there an open standard for it?
Sorry for my long questions.Thanks all.
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