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Do not reuse the names of publicly-visible identifiers, public utility classes, interfaces, or packages in the Java Standard Library.

When a developer uses an identifier that has the same name as a public class, such as Vector, a subsequent maintainer might not be aware that this identifier does not actually refer to java.util.Vector, and might unintentionally use the custom Vector instead of the original java.util.Vector class. The custom type Vector can [shadow] a class name from java.util.Vector, as specified by §6.3.2 of the Java Language Specification [[JLS 2005]]. This can result in unexpected program behavior.

Well-defined import statements can resolve these issues. However, when reused name definitions are imported from other packages, use the type-import-on-demand declaration (see §7.5.2, "Type-Import-on-Demand Declaration" of the Java Language Specification [[JLS 2005]]). Additionally, a common, and potentially misleading, tendency is to produce the import statements after writing the code, often via automatic inclusion of import statements by an IDE. This creates further ambiguity with respect to the names; when a custom type is found earlier in the Java include path than the intended type, no further searches are conducted.

Noncompliant Code Example (Class Name)

This noncompliant code example implements a class that reuses the name of the class java.util.Vector. It attempts to introduce a different condition for the isEmpty() method for interfacing with native legacy code by overriding the corresponding method in java.util.Vector. Unexpected behavior can arise if a maintainer confuses the isEmpty() method with java.util.Vector.isEmpty() method.

class Vector {
  private int val = 1;

  public boolean isEmpty() {
    if (val == 1) {   // compares with 1 instead of 0
      return true;
    } else {
      return false;
  // other functionality is same as java.util.Vector

// import java.util.Vector; omitted

public class VectorUser {
  public static void main(String[] args) {
    Vector v = new Vector();
    if (v.isEmpty()) {
      System.out.println("Vector is empty");

Compliant Solution (Class Name)

This compliant solution uses a different name for the class, preventing any potential shadowing of the class from the Java Standard Library.

class MyVector {
  //other code

When the developer and organization control the original shadowed class, it may be preferable to change the design strategy of the original in accordance with Bloch's Effective Java [[Bloch 2008]] "Item 16: Prefer interfaces to abstract classes." Changing the original class into an interface would permit class MyVector to declare that it implements the hypothetical Vector interface. This would permit client code that intended to use MyVector to remain compatible with code that uses the original implementation of Vector.

Risk Assessment

Public identifier reuse decreases the readability and maintainability of code.




Remediation Cost









Automated Detection

An automated tool can easily detect reuse of the set of names representing public classes or interfaces from the Java Standard Library.

Related Guidelines


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[[JLS 2005

AA. Bibliography#JLS 05]]

[§6.3.2, "Obscured Declarations"]



§6.3.1, "Shadowing Declarations"


§7.5.2, "Type-Import-on-Demand Declaration"


§14.4.3, "Shadowing of Names by Local Variables"

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[[FindBugs 2008

AA. Bibliography#FindBugs 08]]


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[[Bloch 2005

AA. Bibliography#Bloch 05]]

Puzzle 67: All Strung Out


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[[Bloch 2008

AA. Bibliography#Bloch 08]]

Item 16: Prefer interfaces to abstract classes


      01. Declarations and Initialization (DCL)      DCL02-J. Declare all enhanced for statement loop variables to be final

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