Sometimes we would want to clone a object rather than instantiate a new instance, we would use Prototype pattern. Prototype is used to:

  • avoid subclasses of an object creator in the client application, like the Abstract Factory pattern does.
  • avoid the inherent cost of creating a new object in the standard way(e.g., using the ‘new’ keyword) when it is prohibitively expensive for a given application.

To implement the pattern in Java, we need to implement the interface Cloneable. Cloneable is an empty interface, so you could implement an method with any name as you like, usually, we declare it as clone().


Specify the kinds of objects to create using a prototypical instance, and create new object by copying the prototype.

UML class diagram



  • Prototype
    • declares an interface for cloning itself.
  • ConcretePrototype
    • implements an operation for cloning itself.
  • Client
    • creates a new object by asking a prototype to clone itself.


// Prototype
public abstract class Human implements Cloneable {
	protected String name;
	protected String gender;
	protected int age;

	public Object clone() {
		Object clone = null;
		try {
			clone = super.clone();
		} catch (Exception e) {
			// TODO: handle exception
		return clone;
	public abstract String getGender();
	public void setName(String name) { = name;
	public String getName() {
		return name;
	public void setAge(int age) {
		this.age = age;
	public int getAge() {
		return age;

// ConcretePrototype
public class Female extends Human {

	public String getGender() {
		// TODO Auto-generated method stub
		return "Female";


public class Male extends Human {

	public String getGender() {
		// TODO Auto-generated method stub
		return "Male";


// Client
public class HumanCache {
	private static Hashtable<String, Human> humanMap = new Hashtable<String, Human>();
	public static Human getHuman(String gender) {
		Human cachedHuman = (Human)humanMap.get(gender.toLowerCase());
		return (Human)cachedHuman.clone();
	public static void loadCache() {
		Male m = new Male();
		m.setName("Cloneable man");
		humanMap.put("male", m);
		Female fm = new Female();
		fm.setName("Cloneable woman");
		humanMap.put("female", fm);

// Test
public class Test {
	public static void main(String[] args) {
		Male cloneMale = (Male) HumanCache.getHuman("male");
		System.out.println("gender:" + cloneMale.getGender());
		System.out.println("name:" + cloneMale.getName());
		System.out.println("age:" + cloneMale.getAge());
		Female cloneFemale = (Female) HumanCache.getHuman("female");
		System.out.println("gender:" + cloneFemale.getGender());
		System.out.println("name:" + cloneFemale.getName());
		System.out.println("age:" + cloneFemale.getAge());		

In this example we simply call super.clone() which is defined in java.lang.Object class to finish the clone process. clone method in class Object is a native method. Object.clone() is a shallow copy, if we desire a deep copy, we should override the clone method using serialization and unserialization.

Here is the code of deep copy:

 * deep Clone
 * @return cloned object
public Object deepClone() {
	try {
		 /* Write the object to binary stream */  
        ByteArrayOutputStream bos = new ByteArrayOutputStream();  
        ObjectOutputStream oos = new ObjectOutputStream(bos);  
        /* Read in the binary stream as an object */  
        ByteArrayInputStream bis = new ByteArrayInputStream(bos.toByteArray());  
        ObjectInputStream ois = new ObjectInputStream(bis);  
        return ois.readObject(); 
	} catch (Exception e) {
		// TODO: handle exception
		return null;

To use binary read-write serialization, you should implement Serializable interface in class Product (e.g. Human).

For more information about clone method, please see another blog Dive into clone.


  • When the classes to instantiate are specified at run time.
  • When you want to avoid building a class hierarchy of factories that parrallels the class hierarchy of products.
  • When instances of a class can hava one of only a few combinations of state.

See Also

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