Microsoft has introduced an initiative for testing if customers have a genuine version of its Office productivity suite.

The move is part of the firm's continued efforts to prevent software piracy and the distribution of counterfeit copies of its products.

Microsoft has launched a pilot of the OGA (Office Genuine Advantage) programme in seven languages, including Brazilian Portuguese, Czech, Greek, Korean, simplified Chinese, Russian and Spanish, according to Microsoft. The initiative will determine if pilot users have a genuine installation of Microsoft Office on their computers.

The firm declined to disclose where the pilot users are located and how many there are, according to a statement from its public relations firm Waggener Edstrom. Microsoft will expand OGA beyond the pilot phase at some point in the future, but declined to say exactly when.

OGA is part of Microsoft's GSI (Genuine Software Initiative), which is directed at reducing software counterfeiting and piracy. Microsoft had already put in place WGA (Windows Genuine Advantage) as part of this initiative in July 2005.

WGA automatically checks that customers using Windows Update, Microsoft Update for Windows and the Microsoft Download Center have a legitimate version of the Windows OS (operating system) before they can download updates or new content from those services. So far, more than 150 million PCs have participated in WGA, the company said.

At the time of WGA's launch, it met with mixed reviews from customers because of a flaw that identified some versions of Windows as counterfeit when they were actually genuine copies. Because of this, the automated verification feature was immediately hacked so users could avoid running it when using Microsoft update services. Microsoft has since repaired the flaws.

Microsoft has increased its efforts to fight software piracy and the counterfeiting of its products in recent years. In addition to the GSI, the company has been working with hardware vendors to fight piracy and counterfeiting in countries that are prone to software piracy, such as China.