Despite what has appeared to be the very early success of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPod nano product, there has been a less optimistic subplot ever since the device launched -- the one in which some customers have complained that the product's screen is too fragile. That controversy reared its ugly head again on Monday, when it came to light that Apple faces a lawsuit alleging that the product is defective and that it launched the nano knowing that that was the case.

As you may recall, the iPod nano was barely out of the gate when some uproar ensued over some buyers' claims that the screen on the tiny music player was just too easy to damage. Apple did the right thing pretty quickly by admitting that a small percentage of the players did suffer from easily cracked screens and saying that it would replace any affected nanos free of charge. (On the other hand, at that time I thought that Apple saying that the problem was easily rectified by buying a cover to protect the device was a little bit presumptuous -- there may be an iPod economy, but Apple shouldn't give the impression that it's expecting folks to clothe their iPods to protect them from normal wear and tear.)

Word around the Web is that Jason Tomczak filed a lawsuit alleging that the music players "scratch excessively during normal usage, rendering the screens on the Nanos unreadable." Apparently Tomczak returned a scratched nano, only to have the screen on his replacement nano scratch as well. He is suing for the $25 return fee as well as the price he originally paid for the nano. However, the lawyers filing the suit are seeking class action status.

On our own discussion board dedicated to Apple talk, some Foolish Apple fans saw the news as simply a good example of another frivolous lawsuit in a society where many such lawsuits exist. That may be true, and debate rages on the subject of the nano's tendency to scratch or not -- after all, some have subjected the nano to strenuous torture tests, with the guys at Ars Technica dropping one at various speeds and running it over with cars -- but I can't help thinking that continued buzz about the nano's propensity for scratched or otherwise damaged screens just can't be good for Apple.

After all, Apple has always been known for its elegant products, and the very idea that is being bandied about -- that the company knew the nano had a design flaw and released it anyway -- is just not good PR.

Will this hurt Apple? Well, the iPod is still the name in MP3 players at the moment, as is well illustrated by its recent earnings. And Apple recently gave us all food for thought relating to its deal with Disney (NYSE:DIS) to distribute some hit ABC shows using iTunes and its new video-enabled iPod, so its continued power is quite evident. However, I can't help wondering whether all of this bad press might frighten some shoppers away from the iPod nano and give the Apple brand a few scratches as well.

What do you think? Talk to people who love to talk about Apple on our own Apple discussion board.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.