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Many thanks to the person who posted the link to Copyscape. I tried it, and sure enough I found a ton of duplicate content out there. It was primarily from distributors who "borrowed" our product descriptions and pasted them into their web sites. After laboriously re-writing many pages, lo and behold we're back on page 1.
I just checked it again (1 hour after typing the above) and we're back to our old position. Well, it was fun while it lasted! So what can account for this? I checked a few other sites (google.de, etc.) and the results are the same.