LOL, I hear you re the cold, it's currently blizzarding (is that a word? No? Well, it is now) here and the temps are in the deep freeze. My neighbor's house has huge, daggerlike icicles hanging from it, and the governor has declared a state of emergency. I'm in Massachusetts.
Of the places I listed above, the most temperate are California, North Carolina and Austin, but NC still gets some snow. Dunno about Austin and I'm not even so sure there are scads of EEs there. California has earthquakes and San Francisco can be cold but I don't believe it gets terribly snowy there. Seattle is less snowy (even though it's farther North), because it's very humid and there is often a lot of rain. So you pick what kind of weather you can best tolerate.
Try here for patent law info: http://search.able2know.com/cgi-bin/search.cgi?query=patent&catid=71
Here is a website on the creative class: http://www.creativeclass.org/rankings.shtml
That particular page has a drop-down which shows how various cities rank, based upon certain creativity factors, which you may or may not agree with. The bottom line is that cities are more creative if they have and encourage to move there a large creative class (artists, musicians, etc.), they have a lot of high tech, they encourage diversity (large gay population, large immigrant population, not everyone is married, not everyone is a parent), plus innovation is encouraged (I believe this has to do with the number of trendsetters in an area).
Compare, for example, Boston, MA and Anniston, AL (that's Alabama). Boston is ranked third while Anniston is ranked 236th. And this makes sense; Boston has the 128 circle (that's a route number) of engineering companies, we have a decent but not super-fantastic theatre district, and there is a thriving diverse population. Plus, there are more colleges and universities here than in any other part of the US. Anniston, in contrast, is a small deep-Southern town not known for any of those things. However, if it's important to you (and this isn't on that website, I just happen to know this), it's a lot cheaper to live there.
Anyway, time for me to look out the window some more and cuss the weather. :-D