Samsung has released an update for its international Galaxy S3 smartphone that disables on-device search functionality.
The over-the-air upgrade currently rolling out is described as a "stability" update. But although it brings system improvements, it also strips out the local search functionality from the device's built-in Google Search app.
This means that when S3 owners conduct a Web search on their smartphone will not be included.
The change is thought to be the result of the continuing patent spat between the South Korean company and Apple. Although Apple owns a patent that covers local searches, it has not been cited in any legal battle so far. Samsung probably decided to limit the functionality of the smartphone rather than face more legal wrangling over patents.
It is not the first time that the Android operating system has been modified in response to legal challenges by Apple. Other notable instances of Android modifications include the way in the which Android devices now implement slide to unlock, as well as the removal of the bouncing scroll UI effect. Samsung has also been forced to redesign hardware in order to avoid sales injunctions in countries including Germany.
Apple was also defeated in a London court earlier this month when it tried to have Samsung's Galaxy Tab tablets banned in the UK after it failed to convince a judge that the South Korean firm had copied the look of its iPad.
Apple was ordered to publish the fact that its competitor had not infringed its registered design on its website and in magazines as a consequence.
Samsung was more successful in Germany on Tuesday when an appeals court in Dusseldorf extended a preliminary injunction against Samsung's Galaxy Tab 7.7 across the EU because of a related claim.
The two firms are set to clash again in the US on Monday when a jury will hear patent infringement suits filed by both companies against the other.