Raise your hand if you saw this one coming. After posting a tepid date of May 23d for the much-anticipated HTC EVO 4G LTE, Best Buy has updated their outlook for the new superphone with… nothing. The EVO 4G LTE along with the latter shipments of AT&T’s HTC One X are both in limbo after being impounded in US customs by the ITC, which is conducting an investigation to see if the devices comply with a ruling on an Apple software patent made back in December.

The EVO 4G LTE had been scheduled to go on sale today, when it would have been the newest and most advanced phone on The Now Network. Thanks to Apple’s prosecution of a software patent for (of all things) contextual links, both US devices have been barred from import for the foreseeable future while the International Trade Commission determines whether or not they comply with its ruling. HTC has stated, twice, that it has reworked the software to limit the functionality of its devices and avoid using Apple’s nebulous patents.

Welcome to the future, folks, where any idea or function can be patented no matter how ethereal or obvious. The biggest loser here isn’t HTC, or even the networks that Apple is blocking from engaging in trade (while notably offering their own products, with inferior technical specifications, as alternatives). It’s the consumer whose choice is limited because the patent system rewards not those who create an idea, but those who can find the right way to stamp their name on it. Make no mistake, the system is being abused for commercial gain. Note that the HTC One S, with nearly identical software but running on a cellular network where Apple doesn’t compete, can be bought all over the country.

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