Microsoft is continuing its efforts to clamp down on people using pirated versions of its software with the launch of a new website and a slew of new lawsuits.

The new website provides information for how customers can tell whether software is genuine. It shows examples of suspicious packaging and other clues that can help alert users if they’re buying the real deal or a fake copy of Windows or other Microsoft software.

Meanwhile it has also filed 20 more lawsuits against people it claims are dealing counterfeit or pirated software in 13 states. Lawsuits were filed against alleged counterfeiters in Alabama, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Virginia, Microsoft said.

The company has been systematically investigating and filing lawsuits over the past two years against individuals or companies it believes is using illegally counterfeit or pirated versions of its software.

Among the companies cited in the lawsuits as distributing software that infringes on Microsoft’s intellectual property (IP) are: F.A.R., Bisdex and Computer America in Alabama; Ben's Hobby Computers and Ram Computers in Georgia; Cyber Cycle in Illinois; TNT Auto Glass and Computer Repair in Mississippi; and Puterology in New York.

SQL Server 2000, Windows XP Pro and Office 2003 Pro are among the software applications the companies allegedly are distributing illegally, according to Microsoft.

The moves are part of Microsoft’s Genuine Software Initiative (GSI), which the company launched in July 2005 to prevent pirated and counterfeited versions of Microsoft software being sold to users. The initiative has three parts - education, engineering, and enforcement. According to some analyst reports, software companies lose billions of dollars every year to software pirates.

People have mixed views of Microsoft’s efforts to prevent software pirating and counterfeiting.

Some feel that the company’s investigative measures are intrusive, such as Windows Genuine Advantage, an automated program that checks users' PCs automatically through Windows to see if they are running a genuine version of the software. Others say Microsoft is merely protecting its valuable IP and business interests by cracking down on software piracy.