<i18n dev> DateFormatSymbols triggers this.clone() in the constructor

Yoshito Umaoka y.umaoka at gmail.com
Fri Jun 5 15:31:25 UTC 2015

Hi folks,

ICU4J implements Java locale service provider interface. I recently 
received a problem report from our customer. When they upgraded Java 
version to 8, the provider implementation stopped working because of NPE 
thrown by our custom DateFormatSymbols subclass. I dug into the problem 
and found that DateFormatSymbols caches its own instance in the 
constructor. Our subclass implementation expects a field is always 
initialized to non-null in the constructor. However, clone() method is 
called for the super class's constructor, the field is not yet 
initialized at the point.

It looks adding 'null' for the field in clone() method would resolve the 
immediate problem, but I'm not comfortable that DateFormatSymbols 
implementation cache a premature instance of my own subclass. If any 
methods overridden by my own subclass is called on a premature instance, 
it might cause another issue.

Anyway, I filed a bug in the Java bug database with the description 
below. For meanwhile, adding simple 'null' check in our code would 
suffice. But I would like to hear Java i18n team's opinion about this issue.


To implement my own locale service provider, I have a class extending 
java.text.DateFormatSymbols. My custom subclass's constructor implicitly 
invokes the no-args constructor in java.text.DateFormatSymbols. The 
constructor calls a private method - initializeData(Locale).

It looks the implementation was updated in Java 8 and initializeData is 
now trying to cache an instance of DateFormatSymbols at the end and 
calls this.clone().

In my own subclass implements clone() method, which copies a field 
initialized by a constructor in the class. For example,

public class MyDateFormatSymbols extends DateFormatSymbols {
     private final Foo foo;

     public MyDateFormatSymbols(Foo foo) {
         if (foo == null) {
             this.foo = new Foo();
         } else {
             this.foo = foo;

     public Object clone() {
         MyDateFormatSymbols mdfs = (MyDateFormatSymbols)super.clone();
         mdfs.foo = this.foo.clone();

When the constructor MyDateFormatSymbols(Foo) is called, it triggers 
no-args constructor of the super class - DateFormatSymbols() first. As I 
explained earlier, Java 8 implementation calls this.clone() in 
DateFormatSymbpls.initializeData(Locale). At that point, the field foo 
in my class is not yet initialized, so this.foo.clone() will throw 

My own code expects the field 'foo' is always non-null. I could change 
clone() to check if this.foo is null or not, but I cannot control cached 
'premature' instance held by Java DateFormatSymbols. At this moment, it 
looks the cache is only used for copying field values maintained by 
DateFormaSymbols itself and never call a method. So, even 'premature' 
instance of my own subclass instance is referenced by DateFormatSymbols, 
it won't cause any problems. However, if the Java's implementation is 
changed to call any DateFormatSymbols method overridden by my own 
subclass, it may not work (because my subclass expects the field foo is 

Such code above did not have any problems with earlier Java releases 
(Java 6 / 7).

In my opinion, this.clone() should not be called in DateFormatSymbols 
initialization code. Instead, it should create a private container class 
for these symbols, and cache the object, not DateFormatSymbols itself.

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