If you are holding yourself out as available for business, such as trying to sell product or get customers to provide services, then that business activity loss can be used to offset wages or other ordinary income.
If you are only developing a product or getting prepared to be in business those start up costs can not be deducted until you do start to actively seek and participate in the business. Once the business is started all of those costs will be able deducted from the income that is generated later so it is important to track those expenses. See http://www.irs.gov/publications/p583/ar02.html#en_US_2011_publink1000253143 for more information on start up costs.
Having zero income is many times an indication that a business has not started so if you are actively trying and working without any income it may be important to keep good records of the time and effort you put in even if no income is earned.
In some cases the losses are challenged as not actually a business; but that can be refuted with evidence there was a business approach, planning and activity.
See http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=169490,00.html for an article on business versus hobby loss.
Further information is available in IRS Publication 535, Business Expenses at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p535.pdf
As always, please ask if you need clarification or more discussion.
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